The scented valentines of perfumer Eugene Rimmel

Valentine’s Day was a big deal in Victorian London, so much so that newspapers often reported on how many tens of thousands of cards were sent out on the backs of busy postmen. Leading up to the day, there were notices urging people to send their missives early, so that the system would not be overloaded. Perfumer Eugene Rimmel made smart use of the occasion, expanding his business to include the manufacture of Valentine’s cards that were scented with his perfume. Here’s a little find from an 1870 issue of Penny Illustrated.

One of the sights of London on St. Valentine’s Eve is the exterior of any of M. Rimmel’s establishments. The valentines of this famous perfumer growing in popularity every year, the middle of February attracts more and more disciples of the lovers’ saint to 96, Strand. Every variety of swain and sweetheart hie thither, and form a study as interesting as the beauteous and delicate works of art which they gaze at, as if perplexed as to which to choose. M. Rimmel’s valentines are this year even more charming than ever. He has been fortunate enough to hit upon an artist who paints a fair face with a magic touch, and is alike happy in delineating blonde and brunette. As graceful in design as the valentines in which these irresistible beauties appear are some choice specimens adorned by real birds, rich in plumage, and stuffed with such skill that they would make handsome ornaments for any mantelpiece. The floral lovemissives, scented sachets, and girl-of-the-period valentines also merit a word of praise. They are worthy of that arch match-maker M. Rimmel, whose name will be in good odour, we trust, with many happy couples this season.

Penny Illustrated Paper, February 12, 1870

rimmel valentine
An 1880 valentine by artist Jules Chéret, produced by Eugene Rimmel. Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum

Sources and further reading

Victorian Valentines by Sarah Beattie. V & A Blog.

“Rimmel’s Valentines.” Penny Illustrated Paper, 12 February, 1870.

Rimmel’s Scented World.” John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Libraries.

Christmas in 1905: Stimulating the Economy Edwardian-style

christmas card 1900s
An early 1900s Christmas card courtesy Museum of Childhood

Christmas stimulates all industries, but there are some trades which practically live on the greatest of our yearly festivals. For instance, there is the manufacture of Christmas candles, which are used in countless myriads in the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches all over the world, and at which skilled artists work all the year round. These candles are of all sorts and sizes, but the speciality of the trade is the Paschal candle, which is some six feet high and three inches and a half in diameter, weighs nearly fifty pounds, and is invariably made of the purest beeswax. These great altar-shafts are elaborately decorated with broad bands and designs of blue, gold, bronze, and red, all painted by hand, so that it is no wonder that they are costly. Nine to twelve pounds per pair is quite a usual price. There are also the special small candles of all colours, made for the decoration of Christmas trees and known as “tree-tapers.”

The Christmas plum pudding occupies the energies of housewives for several weeks before Christmas. It also keeps busy large special departments of various biscuit and cake manufacturing firms for a large portion of the year; for we export plum puddings by the hundred tons to all parts the world. …

No one actually grows holly or mistletoe for sale, though plenty make a yearly harvest by cutting it and sending it to market. There are, however, several plantations in Yorkshire especially devoted to the growing of Christmas trees, and men are at work on them all the year round to make the trees perfectly symmetrical. The best of these trees are worth as much as £3 apiece.

Near London is a palm “forcer” who has nearly a hundred glass houses devoted to the growing of palms of different kinds, and his market is in the main a Christmas one. Palms are becoming more and more popular for Christmas decorations. Their prices, wholesale, run from a shilling to a guinea apiece.

Toys for Christmas and Christmas cards keep thousands employed from one December to the next, while a brand new business has recently sprung up in the manufacture of artful advertisements masquerading under the guise of Christmas cards.

The proportions of the Christmas cracker industry may be gathered from the fact that between 15,000,000 and 16,000,000 are manufactured each [year] for home use.

There is an ever-increasing number of people who make their living at window decorating, and for these the great harvest of the year comes at Christmastide when every window vies with every other in attracting customers. The butcher’s artist is, perhaps, the most important of the lot. His work is not only to hang up the fat beasts so as to make the best show, but to decorate them with designs cut in fat. So much as a pound or thirty shillings is paid for a portrait of the King and Queen done in this way, and there is a man in Smithfield who will guarantee to copy any picture which the butcher likes for a specified sum.

Penny Illustrated, 23 December, 1905

Woman in White

A young signalman on the Southern Railway, at Cane Hill Box, Coulsdon, had the fright of his life yesterday at daybreak. Looking out of one of the windows of his cabin, Ernest Fills saw a ghostly apparition approaching, says the London “Daily Chronicle” correspondent. It proved to be an old lady in her night attire, with her hair in disarray all over her face. There was a fixed stare in her eyes; she was clasping her hands over her breast and screaming. Evidently she had been attracted to the signal-box by the light. Fills opened the door and asked her in, but she did not answer. He touched her on the shoulder, and she turned round and cried, “Don’t touch me! Don’t send me back; don’t send me back! I want to find my children.” The signalman was alarmed, for the woman was shivering violently, but he persuaded the wanderer to enter the signal-box, and went to fetch an asylum attendant who lived near. When he returned the woman had gone. A quarter of an hour later she was found on the side of the railway, at Ashdown Park Hotel, still shrieking, “Don’t send back; don’t send me back.” It was found that the woman was a dangerous mental patient, who had escaped from Cane Hill Asylum. She was returned there.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, Thursday, 26 April 1923.

Chapter 3 - Mary Anne Evans, circa 1893, around the time of her engagement to Harry Deverill
Our great grandmother, Mary Anne Deverill, was a patient at Cane Hill Asylum not long before this article was written. This photograph shows her in happier times, in the 1890s, about to be married.