This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine a story from the February 14, 1908 edition of the Daily News Standard.
“The observance of St. Valentine’s day in and about Uniontown this year is very general and young and old are joining heartily in the exchange of tender missives of affection, friendship, and greeting.”
So begins a front-page article on Valentine’s Day from the Daily News Standard, published on the very date of the holiday in 1908. According to the Standard, the year saw an unprecedented number of gifts and cards moving through the post office, where the rush put the clerks in mind of Christmas.
Like today, the holiday had a commercial angle. A “prominent firm” — likely that belonging to Harry Beeson, a bookseller who operated out of the West End Theatre Building — reported a robust sale of Valentines. They had begun ordering their stock as early as the previous July, creating a selection that ranged from the penny Valentines that were popular with children to the deluxe $5 Valentines. (I would have liked to have seen the latter. Five dollars in 1908 had the same buying power as more than a hundred dollars would now!)
Flowers were also a popular gift for the occasion, with carnations, violets, and American Beauty roses being in particular demand. Books, along with “pictures mounted with hearts and Valentine greetings,” were among the alternatives to flowers or cards — but the article makes no mention of candy.
In the area schools, students of all grade levels were encouraged to observe the holiday through themed lessons and art projects. This was an effort by teachers to “develop the social side and promote companionable feelings,” as the Standard rather clinically put it — but one imagines that there was honest affection at play for more than a few students.
While older students learned about St. Valentine, the younger pupils brought cards from home or made them in class. (The catch: No Valentine should cost over five cents and every student must receive one.) I definitely remember making cards back in elementary school, though I didn’t write things in my cards like:
My heart to you, my Valentine
or . . .
Love me little, love me long
These were examples of phrases written into the cards made by primary schoolers, whose Valentines were “cut from red paper and mounted on a white mat.” Once they were done, the teacher would sift through them and remove any that were “undesirable.” I wonder what constituted an “undesirable” card in 1908!