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Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive

Feb. 14, 1885: Some valentines 'are simply vile and they become worse every year'

From the St. Paul Daily Globe:



To-Day Is the Day for Making the Selection.

According to the calendar and the usages of tradition, to-day, the 14th of February, is sacred to the memory of St. Valentine, and no doubt it will be observed with the usual interchange of tokens of love and affection, not to say contempt on the part of naughty and jealously inclined young persons, as has been customary from time immemorial.

According to tradition, St. Valentine, from whom the day takes its name, was put to death by the Emperor Claudius in Rome, and to say the least the latter must have had bad taste to execute so elegant a gentleman, especially if he possessed a tithe of the charms of person or manners attributed to him by the veracious historians.

Foremost among the beautiful traditions associated with the day is the legend that on this day lovers choose their sweethearts, and birds had drawn their mates and valentines.

Anyone in passing down Third street anytime within the past couple of weeks, could not but have their attention drawn to the bright and beautiful display of valentines and fancy cards in the shop windows.


"The designs this year," said a dealer in speaking of the trade, “are if anything, prettier than ever; everything runs to flowers, the old style of paper lace with bleeding hearts and dagger accompaniments have almost gone out of date. Some of the more elaborate like this one (holding up a magnificent design of plush) come us high as $20, but a girl has got to be pretty solid to receive as costly a token as this."

The reporter was shown a number of exquisite designs in silk, ranging in price from $2 to $15.

As on former years, the handsomest valentines come in the shape of cards, Prang's designs taking the lead, and very tidy and beautiful patterns maybe had for 25 or 50 cents, while $1 buys something superb.


A call on Miss Hindes, the young lady who presides at the valentine window at the post office, resulted in some valuable information.

"Valentines," said the young lady, "are growing out of date lately, but while the number passing through the mails is less, the designs are far prettier than formerly. There are not nearly so many comics either, and I am glad of it; I think we should have a law keeping them out of the mails, as some are simply vile and they become worse every year. One gentleman, a regular six-footer, received a comic valentine here to-day, and he was so mad that he wanted to fight a duel. I can tell when a gentleman wants to send a valentine; he goes to the stamp window looking as sheepish as can be, and then he drops it into the box and slips away just as if everybody was looking at him."

Feb. 18, 1936: My bloody valentine

In far harder times — the Great Depression — a blood-covered plate teeming with germs was apparently an acceptable valentine. The Minneapolis Star put this bizarre, um, brite on page one:
  A positive staph infection graces this agar plate of more recent vintage.



Deadly Germs Form Valentine

He’s “bugs” about her – that’s what Dr. Rudolph Kouchy, fanciful University of Minnesota bacteriologist, apparently meant in a valentine to one of his students, Geraldine Lundquist.

The whimsical doctor constructed his missive of love from pure culture germs on a blood-covered agar plate, and placed it in the incubator.

In the morning when his student removed it, it had turned into a large, white heart with a lacy border and on it was inscribed – in germs – “Gerry,” and “Be My Valentine.” The doctor had inscribed his design with an inoculating wire.

The doctor was sure of his recipient, because only a trained technician could handle such a missive, because the concentrated fluid of deadly germs might be fatal if touched by hand.

[Originally posted in February 2009]