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  • Writer's pictureCat T. Gardiner

Sending the Very Best - Greeting Cards

Hi-di-ho, my friends! I was going to write about the color red today. It's appropriate, I think, since St. Valentine's is a week away, but when DH arrived home with something darling, I just knew I had to switch gears. I'll save my post on Victory Red for another day and, instead, talk about greeting cards.

That darling something

You probably remember adorable little "Be My Valentine" cards similar to this sweet one. As a kid in the 70s these colorful die-cut cards were all the rage at school. I recall hoping upon hope that Randy Ertman in the 1st Grade would make me his Valentine with one of these. Alas ... I had to wait until 2016 for my husband to give me this 73 year-old one. But it is so much sweeter now, in my 1940s Experience, coming from my WWII re-enactor sweetheart. It looks like him too! (Just kidding.)

These small historical momentos are highly collectible, especially the ones from the WWII-era, and if you can find the whimsical "moveables" with sliding arms, they're quite the reward!

There's an interesting history about them, apart from their age. Just as fashion, food, metal, gasoline, and rubber rationing (along with general shortages) impacted the Home Front, so had paper restrictions. Paper was needed to pack munitions and equipment before sending them overseas AND needed for the increase in book publishing to send the boys all those Pockets, Penguins, and Armed Services Editions that the Council of Books in Wartime sold to the Army for only six cents a volume.

It's amazing how powerful the argument was when the subject of boosting the morale of the boys in service was made at the start of WWII.

When faced with the Office of Price Administration's (OPA) strict moratorium on paper usage (25% reduction,) it had the potention to cripple the greeting card business. But thankfully, one man wasn't having any of it! Just following Pearl Harbor, 1941, greeting card publisher George Burkhardt of Burdkhardt-Warner charged a campaign when it seemed as though there would be no Christmas or Valentine's day cards for the duration. The brilliant man figured that "money talks" if it meant that the Treasury could reap a few War Bonds in the process. Items such as the "Defense Stamp Birthday Card," were a pretty good incentive to change the OPA's mind. Later the rational argument that "Greeting Cards in Wartime" would help lift the spirits of the boys abroad when happy cards depicting Home Front and patriotic cartoons arrived at mail call.

From my personal collection

In fact, it was such a successful campaign that the military itself issued greeting cards for the boys to send to loved ones. G.I-issued cards "To Mother," and "Sweetheart" traveled continents to get home with handwritten simple messages of "I love you," "I'm doing just fine," and "Don't worry about me" inside. Did you know that Hallmark was a producer of some of these cards?

This is from Hallmark's Corporate Information page:

Tough Times, Good Wishes

Hallmark first produced cards for the military in 1917 for people serving in World War I. The company has offered military cards for each major war since then, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the ongoing War on Terror.

1940s — Victory Mail, or V-Mail, were full-sheet letters, microfilmed for overseas sending then enlarged to reach recipients. They saved shipping space, as a single v-mail sack could replace the 30+ mail bags required for 150,000 regular letters. Hallmark produced several of the letter-envelope greetings in the war years.

Hallmark is right, their branding slogan "When You Care Enough to Send The Very best," means so much more than shrewd words to sell greeting cards. In 1944, that phrase was a commitment to the war effort. IMHO.

A little explanation about V-Mail from the National WWII Museum website: Short for "Victory Mail," V-mail was developed by Eastman Kodak and was the main way soldiers stationed abroad were able to communicate with friends and family back home. Prior, one of the only ways to reach loved ones was through Air Mail, which was sent by airplane and was often more expensive than regular mail and took too long to be used for any urgent messages. V-mail allowed for faster, less expensive correspondence. Because the letters were censored before being transferred to microfilm, V-mail was one of the most secure methods of communication. After letters arrived at their destination, the negatives would be blown up to full size and printed. In addition to increased security, this method meant saving shipping space that could otherwise be used for necessary war materials. Using this small microfilm saved the postal system thousands of tons of shipping space, fitting the equivalent of 37 mail bags worth of letters into just one.


Now, about those War Savings Bond Booklet cards. Here is a sweet and quite cheeky 16 page one from 1942 that Mr. Cat (DH) also surprised me with. On the inside flap it reads:

This "Stamp Out the Axis" Ten-cent war stamp album is published by The Greeting Card Industry ...

It holds 187 Ten-cent war stamps. When filled add 5 cents in coin for a total value of $18.75 and exchange album at Post Office for War Savings Bond, which after ten years will be worth $25.00.

Okay lets take an inflation station break: $18.75 in 1942 = $272.64 in 2016 / $25.00 in 1952 $223.60. Yowza!

I absolutely love these die-cut colorful WWII Valentines and Christmas cards. The tenderness of them bring about a happy feeling when I think how sweethearts found just the right one to send. A hardboiled, battle-weary soldier took the time to send one, filling it with words like "darling and honey" as maybe his hand shook. I don't know ... I think of the recipient on both ends and how those cute kewpie doll-type illustrations effected them. Yeah, boosting both their morale because his girl needed courage, too. She was just as unsure of his return as he was.

Happy St. Valentine's my friends, and don't forget to send your loved ones a tender reminder of your affection to brighten their day. Keep 'Em Flying!

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