Feature February 2019

Baxter Process Valentines

Baxter Process Prints were often used on valentine cards throughout the 1850s and 1860s, and this is probably largely due to the fact that Joseph Mansell was both a printer of small decorative prints by the Baxter Process and also a manufacturer of decorative fancy stationery, including embossed lace paper.

Mansell brought together his coloured prints with his decorative paper and a range of embellishments to create luxurious valentines. The printing and embossing was done by men, whilst a production line of women and children assembled the cards, adding the required print, netting, glass beads, mottos, and paper or silk birds and flowers to enhance the card - and more importantly to enhance the price!

Charles Dickes wrote about the manufacture of these valentines at the premises of Joseph Mansell in his magazine “All the Year Round” in February 20 1864 describing in great detail the operations of “Cupid’s Manufactory”. This records that a valentine with a lace border and highly-coloured illustration could be sold at prices varying from sixpence to half-a-crown; but this could rise to five shillings or half a guinea with the addition of embellishments and ornaments. To put this into context, the article also records that the women and children working in Mansell’s factory were paid between five to fifteen shillings per week.

Prints by Joseph Mansell were not the only Baxter Process prints to be used at this time on valentine cards. Examples can still be found bearing prints by Kronheim and George Baxter himself, some on Mansell embossed lace paper and others on the decorative paper of other firms such as Dobbs, Woods and Windsor & Sons.

A Baxter print from his Figures and Landscapes Set on a valentine card by Joseph Mansell
A Baxter print from his Figures and Landscapes Set on a valentine card by Joseph Mansell
A homemade valentine with Baxter's Bala Lake
A homemade valentine with Baxter's Bala Lake


The valentine shown above is complete with paper-lace envelope. Note the postmark is 17th February, better late than never!




In addition to the valentine cards created by the assembly-line staff of fancy stationers, many were also made in the home. At this time valentines were not just focused on lovers, but were given as tokens of friendship to acquaintances, neighbours and relatives, and by 1850 it was possible to buy the component embossed paper, die cut scraps and embellishment for self-assembly in the home. Some of these would use small chromolithography prints, but the discerning would seek out a Baxter Process print to adorn their treasured valentine creation.

For more information about valentines see our February 2013 Article and February 2016 Print of the Month