Today in History

Today in History: February 14

Valentine’s Day

I folded a little missive
And called it a Valentine
And sent it a-way with its hidden freight
From this fluttering heart of mine

"My Valentine,"
words by Mary D. Brine, music by R. Goerdeler, 1877.
Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1820-1860 & 1870-1885

St. Valentine's Day Window
Schrafft's, 58th St. and Madison Ave., St. Valentine's Day Window,
New York City,
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer,
February 1, 1948.
Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America: Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935-1955

On February 14, Americans celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, and candy. Although the origins of Valentine's Day are murky, ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, a spring festival, on the fifteenth of February. Like so many holidays, a Christian gloss was added to the pagan fete when the holiday moved to the fourteenth of February—the saint day associated with several early Christian martyrs named Valentine.

The romance we associate with Valentine's Day may spring from the medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14. During the Middle Ages, lovers recited verse or prose to one another in honor of the day.

Handmade valentines, probably the first greeting cards, appeared in the sixteenth century. Mass production of cards began as early as 1800. Initially hand-tinted by factory workers, by the early twentieth century even fancy lace and ribbon-strewn cards were created by machine.

The Kiss
The Kiss,
Edison Manufacturing Co., 1900.
Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

The Edison Film Catalog describes the film:

Nothing new, but an old thing done over again and done well. Some one has attempted to describe a kiss as 'something made of nothing,' but this is not one of that kind, but one of those old fashioned "home made" kind that sets the whole audience into merriment and motion, and has always proven a popular subject. It is very fine photographically and an exhibit is not complete without it.

"Love, Here is my Heart,"
music by Lao Silesu,
English words by Adrian Ross,
performed by Reed Miller,
recorded 1921.
Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Romance abounds in American Memory. Entertain your valentine with the following digitized delights: