History of Valentines Day - Sweethearts & Romance

Updated on Feb 12, 2021. Originally added on Feb 14, 2017 by Kathy Pinna
These photos of old Valentine's cards, sweethearts, and couples from our past remind us that love never changes - only the fashion and form of expression (and perhaps the kinds of candy). Isn't it wonderful that all over the world, for over a millennia, a day has been set apart to celebrate all kinds of love? Family, friends, and lovers are reason to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Since 1902, the Necco candy company (which has been around since the mid 1800's) has been making their "sweethearts" - candies with sayings such as "Be Mine", "Be Good", "Kiss Me", "Sweet Talk" and "True Love." Of course, some of the sayings have changed with the times and now there are sweet little hearts with sayings such as "#Love", "Occupy My <3", "Txt Me" (previously "Email Me" and "Fax Me"), "Girl Power" and "BFF." Giving these candies are one way we have celebrated St. Valentine's Day - for most of us, since grade school. The other ways: Chocolates (especially in big heart boxes!), flowers (especially red roses), perfume, jewelry, and a romantic dinner for the adults. And how about Valentine cards? Valentines are good at any age - they express our love and affection for everyone from friends to family, from would be girlfriends or boyfriends to spouses. The second most celebrated holiday worldwide (the largest is New Year's Day), Valentine's Day is a special occasion for everyone, no matter where and how they celebrate.

The history of St. Valentine's Day: In ancient Rome, Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from February 13th through the 15th. This wasn't like the Valentine's Day we celebrate today. Men would kill a goat and dog, then whip women with the hides which they believed would make women fertile. Pulling names from a jar, young men would then "pair up" with young women for the duration of the festival (yes, this was a drunken festival with naked participants and lots of sexual activity).

Sometime in the 5th century, the Pope combined this festival with St. Valentine's Day (thought to be named after two saints named Valentine) and outlawed the debauchery of the previous Lupercalia. By the Middle Ages, around the 14th century, handmade letters or cards became a tradition and St. Valentine's Day quickly grew into a day of romantic love. In 1913, Hallmark began mass producing Valentine's Day cards, homemade cards became less popular, and a more commercial holiday which we know today was born.

History of Valentines Day - Sweethearts & Romance

Schrafft's Valentine's Day, 1948

Schrafft's Valentine's Day

What says Valentine's Day better than a box of chocolates? :)

1800's - "My Sweetheart"

My sweetheart

A Currier and Ives print - ain't she fancy?

"The Summer girl and her sweetheart"

The Summer girl and her sweetheart

1897 photo showing that some things never change (except the fashion).


1861 Harper's Weekly

Saint Valentine's Day - 1861

Showing what you should do on Valentine's Day in 1861!

Prang's Valentine Cards

Prang's Valentine cards

1883, the push to manufactured cards

Her Marine was in France, WW I

Elsie Porter, Minnesota

She gave him her photo to carry.

High School Sweethearts

Bob Carroll & Mildred Ward

A Senior trip in 1943 Texas


World War II sweethearts

Bob Carroll & Edith Grizzle

They married after the war.

1950's Valentine Card

Valentine's Day Card

Remember handing out cards like this in school? Watch video

High School Sweethearts

Delpha Schadewitz & Jerry Linnenkohl, 1967

1967 Washington

"Ann and her sweetheart"

Ann and Her Sweetheart

Found photo - all that's known is that it says "Ann and her sweetheart". Looks like the 1920's?

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