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Monday, February 10, 2020

February 14 -- Valentine's Day

February 14 is Valentine’s Day, the holiday when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. Are you ready to tell your sweetie just how you feel?

As is the case with many of our holidays, this one has origins in an ancient festival. Valentine’s day comes from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February, which celebrated the coming of spring and included fertility rites and the pairing of women and men.

The day is also known as St. Valentine’s Day. Legend surrounds the identity of the original Valentine. Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Another common legend states that St. Valentine defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war and that it is for this reason that his feast day is associated with love.
Formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. With the introduction of penny postage and envelopes in England in 1840, the exchange of valentines increased, and the use of lace paper, delicately ornamented, became popular.

In the U.S., woodcut valentines were produced by Robert H. Elton and Thomas W. Strong of New York, but soon gave way to the lace paper delicacies imported from England. Less expensive creations by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, first appeared in 1850.

Hallmark Corporation was started by brothers Joyce Clyde (J.C.) and Rollie Hall in 1910, when they sold postcards door to door in Norfolk, Nebraska, where they lived. At age 18, JC moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with two card-filled shoeboxes.  He traveled by train and peddled his postcards in the surrounding small towns, until he was able to open up a storefront in downtown Kansas City with Rollie.

The Hall brothers were the first to put greeting cards in envelopes in 1915, which they felt was more discreet. With the start of World War 1, their greeting card business took off, as servicemen and their families looked to stay in closer contact. The brothers are also credited with the invention of decorative wrapping paper in 1917—when they ran out of plain paper—as well as the card display racks you still see in every store today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. Tracy, that is so interesting about how the Hallmark company was started! They had no idea, did they, of what was to come! Today is mine and Gary's 41st wedding anniversary, so we always combine anniversary and Valentine's Day. We are going out tonight to celebrate somewhere nice, and then on Valentine's Day we will do something special here at home--(that means me cooking something, I'm sure!) LOL Very interesting post! I enjoyed it.

  2. Happy anniversary, Cheryl! Dan and I rarely go out for Valentine's Day anymore. We prefer to cook at home, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I always wondered how Hallmark cards got started. I'm trying to imagine selling postcards town to town on a train. It's amazing how Hallmark has become such a tradition in American life, including their Christmas ornaments.
    I don't think I've ever heard of the Roman tradition that may have led to the celebration of Valentine's Day. Winter sure would be boring without Valentine's to celebrate.
    Good blog, Tracy. I truly enjoyed reading it.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I've always been a big collector of Hallmark ornaments. My favorite is my Star Trek Enterprise & Klingon Bird of Prey. lol

  4. Happy Valentines day to you too! I love reading historical romance and learning these histories of valentines and so many other tidbits is awesome. I never knew about valentines history! Love this!

    1. Caffey, we love all these tidbits, too. It's why I write historical romance. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Happy Valentine's day to you Tracy. Nice overview of the origins and growth of this day for 'lovers'. Doris

  6. I had no idea that Hallmark was based on a real name. Thanks for a lovely post and for including the wonderful pictures of Valentine's Day cards from bygone days.

  7. Thanks for the interesting information! I, too, enjoyed learning more about The Hallmark Company. I didn’t know that it opened in 1910.
    It tickled me to read that they began to put greeting cards in envelopes for privacy issues!
    I’d have never have guessed!