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Every Mother Has One

by Erika Gonzalez (05/04/08).

Nearly every mother has one – the box filled with grade-school artwork, Boy Scout merit badges and years of Mother’ s Day cards. Whether homemade creations with crayon and construction paper or store-bought sentiments, Mother’s Day cards are simply too tough for most moms to toss, and many mothers hold on to cards for decades.

Vintage Mother’s Day cards from the Fifties or earlier in mint condition typically sell for $10 and up. They recall a more innocent era when greeting card messages were syrupy and the artwork was all about bunnies and flowers.

Despite generating big sales for the card companies (it’s the third most popular card-sending holiday), Mother’s Day wasn’t conceived by Hallmark.

The practice of celebrating mothers actually pre-dates the greeting card industry by centuries. Celebrated in many parts of the world, the American version of the holiday is a relatively recent addition.

In Europe, the holiday evolved out of a Lenten tradition in the late Middle Ages, which required Christians to honor the church where they were baptized. Worshipers would decorate their “mother church” The English eventually altered the ritual to recognize all mothers on “Mothering Day,” and families would gather for feasts with mothers serving as the guest of honor.

Mothering Day, however, didn’t survive the trip to the colonies. In fact, American mothers wouldn’t officially get their special day until 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day. Getting his support was the subject of a massive public letter writing campaign by Anna Jarvis, daughter of the West Virginia woman who launched a local Mother’s Day effort in the 19th century.

The commercialization of Mother’s Day during the Roaring Twenties would lead Anna Jarvis to actively oppose the holiday. According to the New York Times, she considered greeting cards a “lazy” form of tribute and communications. Ironically, it’s now estimated that Americans send 155 million cards on Mother’s Day, or one for every two Americans.

Vintage cards from the 1940s are widely available online and in antique stories. Often you can find one in its original sleeve, or envelope, unsigned.

For example, The Lone Star Parlor antique store in Denton, TX is offering a rare 1946 card from Charles Christian Culp Publishers for $10.99. It features a feathered pony pulling a cart full of flowers., with the message, “Just a Little Card to say Have a Happy Mother’s Day.”

For $3.50, you can buy a 1959-60 Mother’s Day inspirational (unsigned) that was produced by Ideals Publishers of Milwaukee. An inspirational is a card with extra pages filled with verse and quotations appropriate to the occasion – more than a card, but not quite a book. DJP Antiques and Collectibles of Independence, Ohio has a selection of vintage inspirationals featuring illustrations of roses in several colors.

Luckily, technology is helping make Mother’s Day cards a bit more personal than the mass-produced greetings Anna Jarvis rallied against. For example, Hallmark now gives consumers the ability to record a 10-second message directly into greeting cards fitted with a digital chip.

Video email cards are also becoming a popular option, which may prompt mothers to begin saving those gems on hard drives rather than shoe boxes.

You can send vintage post cards via email on WorthPoint. Those cards were contributed by Eric Larson at CardCow.com.

You can also send a video postcard from WorthPoint. Those cards were contributed by both CardCow.com and Royce Bair.com.

Click here to send your mother’s day a vintage video card.

Click here to send your mother a vintage postcard.

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