What is the History of Valentine's Day?

A Valentine's Day card sent in 1915.
The road to the day of love has twists and turns.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world as a day of romance, but its origins were anything but romantic. The day was named after the Roman priest Valentine, who was sentenced to death on February 14, 269 A.D. for his stance of protecting the sacrament of marriage. The date was first declared a Feast Day in 496 A.D. by Pope Gelasius to honor the now Sainted Valentine. It was not until many centuries later that the date became associated with romance.

In 1797, Valentine’s Day cards appeared. In London, England, cards became popular quickly, and it wasn’t long until the United States followed suit. In 1849, Esther Howland created the first commercially produced Valentine’s Day card, earning her the nickname, “mother of the American Valentine.” Hallmark didn’t join the market until 1913.

The Valentine above was sent by Elmer Fink to his romantic interest, Lola, in 1915. (Note the names handwritten below each character.)

Wendy Petersen Biorn is the executive director of the Carver County Historical Society.

Carver County Historical Society
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Email: wbiorn@co.carver.mn.us