Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Victorian Valentine's Day

As we munch our strawberries and chocolate and sip champagne while gazing at the sparkling diamonds bestowed upon us by adoring admirers, it’s fun to spend a moment thinking about how we got to this point.

The tradition of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day in England goes back over four centuries and is even mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but modern valentines are largely a creation of the early Victorians. The reduction in postal rates in England in the early nineteenth century made paper valentines so popular they started being assembled in factories. Fancy ones included real ribbon and lace.

As with so many other fashionable Victorian customs, the celebration of Valentine’s Day quickly jumped the pond. The first commercial valentines in the U.S. were produced by Esther Howland in Massachusetts in 1847, and by 1849, a writer in Graham’s American Monthly wrote “St. Valentine’s Day…is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.”

Unfortunately for the heroine of my latest book, Harvest of Dreams, Valentine’s Day is pretty much like every other day. On February 14, 1866, young widow Lisa McAllister is cooped up inside her farmhouse in snowy western Missouri with a man who drives her crazy. No valentines. No candy. No champagne. How sad.

I invite you to stop by my website at for more details about these two lovebirds, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!


Virginia said...

Lisa sounds a lot like me.


Elie said...

Great post-fun valentine history.


Cindy L said...

Thanks for sharing the history! I learned something new!