The Worthington Historical Society’s next exhibit might be a little punny.

The society will hold a pop-up exhibit showcasing its collection of vintage Valentine’s Day greetings from Feb. 13 to 15 in the upstairs exhibit space at the Old Rectory, 55 W. New England Ave. in Worthington.

Sue Whitaker, curator for the historical society, said the collection ranges from as early as 1820 to the 1950s, and it contains more than 100 cards.

The cards in the collection have a wide range of styles, sayings and images, she said.

Whitaker said giving cards was a custom of Victorian England, but the holiday had roots in a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia.

Lupercalia was celebrated from Feb. 13 to 15 by the Romans with such activities as ritual sacrifices, fertility rites and a feast, according to

The Valentine’s Day holiday as we know it is named after Valentine, a Christian saint who was believed to have been martyred Feb. 14, A.D. 269.

A feast to honor St. Valentine’s martyrdom was established by Pope Gelasius I more than 200 years later in 496, according to, and Feb. 14 started being observed as a day to celebrate love and romance about a millennium later.

Originally, Whitaker said, Valentine’s Day cards were sent by a significant other to one other person.

An artist named Esther Howland, who lived from 1828 to 1904, is considered responsible for popularizing the cards in America for consumers through the New England Valentine Co., she said.

But some cards associated with the holiday could have a mean streak, too, she said.

Whitaker said in the mid-1800s, “penny dreadfuls,” also known as “vinegar valentines,” became popular for Valentine’s Day. They often consisted of rhymes, insults and caricatures.

“They would be very cheap but would be very much ‘out there’ in what they would say,” she said.

A modern company also makes an appearance in the exhibit, Whitaker said.

In the early 1900s, a man named Joyce Hall started selling picture postcards with his brother under the name Hall Brothers, she said. The company eventually started selling greeting cards and changed its name to Hallmark.

Kate LaLonde, executive director of the Worthington Historical Society, said the exhibit will be a “fun and concise way” to show off the collection because many times it is off-site.

LaLonde said the collection has been on display in the past at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High St.

The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Exhibit times are 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 14 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 15.

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