When your name is easily used in puns and songs, the novelty wears off quickly. But instead settling for cheap laughs, one Nebraska town has turned a notable name into international recognition and thousands of letters. In the Spring 2013 issue of Nebraska History Mary Ann May-Pumphrey follows the holiday cachet program of Valentine, Nebraska, from its beginnings in 1941.
“Send a Valentine to your Valentine from Valentine, Nebraska,” announced the front page of the Cherry County News. For years the post office had received Valentine’s Day cards to be re-mailed with a February 14 postmark from Valentine. In 1941, postmaster Margarete Clare Phelps decided to make an organized program for these cards and promote the town in the process. Valentines would be collected and saved for the holiday, then sent out again with a special cachet: a stamped design included in the postage stamp cancellation.
Valentine’s Day 1941 was a big celebration for the community. In addition to the cachet program, there was a coronation of a King and Queen of Hearts, as well as a costume ball and showings of the film of that year’s Rose Bowl. After it suffered a setback in the form of WWII, the cachet program continued to grow, powered by post office and Chamber of Commerce staff with the invaluable support of volunteers.
Over the years, the stamp itself experienced several reinventions. Often including the town’s “Saint and City” motto, special versions of the cachet were designed for particular years. During the 60s, the cachet looked like the mileage signs heading into Valentine “Heart of the Sandhills,” “Nebraska’s Heritage Sweetheart,” and “The Heart City” are just a few of the slogans on cachets throughout the years. In 2009, a high school art contest added four more designs to the collection of currently available cachets.
In spite of email, Valentine’s cachet program is still going strong and receives mail from all over the world. To send your Valentine’s Day cards with this year’s special postmark, Valentine’s Chamber of Commerce website directs: “Just prepare your valentine or valentines like you were going to mail them yourself, including postage. Then put them in a larger envelope and mail them to Cupid’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 201, Valentine, NE 69201.”
Do you have a colorful name? Take a cue from the Sweetheart City and make the most of it!
-Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant