Like many men [thousands? millions?], I approach Valentine’s Day with a measure of trepidation. The weight of choosing the appropriate card grows heavier each year. Perhaps I’m losing strength to carry on the tradition. Despite the thousands [millions?] of commercially available options, I struggle to find the card with the words that have the right amount of letters and just the right sound to convey my feelings.
Not for the first time, I wonder: ‘What would Herbert Hoover do?’ The archival record here is mute. We have no evidence that Hoover ever sent a Valentine card to express his thoughts. On the other hand, we have four folders of Valentine’s cards sent to Hoover while he was President. These are in box 145 of the Presidential Papers Personal Files. They are adorable. Hundreds of Americans, primarily children, felt no compunction in sending cards to the President asking that he be their Valentine. While we do not know whether these cards comprise the entirety of Valentines sent to Hoover, we do know that all cards in the collection earned a response from Hoover’s secretaries.
The Valentines sent to President Hoover were varied. They included home-made cards accompanied by explanatory letters, commercial cards wreaking havoc on the language with tortured puns [fishing being a recurring theme], mass-produced cards almost cloying in the sweetness of their sentiment, and commercial cards of such intricacy and grace that one wonders at the cost. One such card is shown here. The photograph only begins to reveal the subtlety of the mechanics which result in the pop-up three dimensionality—all done without damaging the lace or embossing. Surely Hoover must have appreciated the engineering of such a card.
I wonder if this tradition of sending Valentines to the President continues. I hope so. It would be sad to think that such a sincere, innocent enterprise should be consigned to the ash heap of history.