Saint Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 14, 1861

On this date in 1861 (or probably for this date in 1861), Richard Cadbury, son of the founder and soon-to-be co-owner of Cadbury Chocolate, created the first ever heart-shaped box filled with chocolate. These were promoted, first in England, as a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day.

Gift giving to sweethearts on this day of love had been going on since the middle ages. The Victorian Era delighted in frilly cards and gaudy paper. The Richmond Daily Dispatch, however, was tired of such things.

To-day, February 14th, is Saint Valentine’s day –an occasion set apart for several years past for the transmission through the post-office of printed caricatures of the “tender passion,” in its various stages, from skewered beef hearts to sentimental verses. The Saint after whom the day is named, suffered martyrdom in the reign of the Emperor Claudius, for some petty infraction of law — from which circumstance (he being an ardent devotee of love and charity,) has arisen the practice of naming as aforesaid “loving friends” in valentines or remembrances — in these latter days mostly converted into a means of saying covertly that which would entail danger if openly expressed. The practice of sending valuable presents on St. Valentine’s day, once in vogue, to use an inelegant, but forcible expression, has long since been “played out.”

Though this perhaps bitter author thought the practice “played out,” Cadbury clearly disagreed. His success is now obvious.

Scheffer’s Bookstore of 18 Market Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania told its patrons of a “large assortment of comic and sentimental Valentines of different styles and prices.”1

Atlanta diarist and bookseller, Sam Richards seemed to agree that it was all played out. He wrote in his diary that “the weather has been quite favorable for birds to mate and Valentines to sell for several days previous to this but this morning was wet and dark. It cleared up however at noon. But the Val’ trade has not been as brisk as it was last year….”2

Now, what does this have to do with the Civil War? Absolutely nothing.

Jefferson Davis was still making his way to Montgomery and Abraham Lincoln left Columbus en route to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he stayed at the Monongahela House. He delivered a speech from his balcony and promised to continue it the next morning.

Speaking of Mr. Lincoln and Valentine’s Day, the President-Elect received quite a colorful display from a Southerner who seemed more interested in Halloween than any holiday having to do with love. “If you don’t resign we are going to put a spider in your dumpling…” There was more. Much more. You can read it here3, if you like, but the language is rather harsh.4

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

  1. Harrisburg Patriot & Democrat, February 14, 1861. []
  2. Sam Richards’s Civil War Diary: A Chronicle of the Atlanta Home Front by Samuel Pearce Richards, University of Georgia Press, 2009. []
  3. Mr. Abe Lincoln – if you don’t Resign we are going to put a spider in your dumpling and play the Devil with you you god or mighty god dam sundde of a bith go to hell and buss my Ass suck my prick and call my Bolics your uncle Dick god dam a fool and goddam Abe Lincoln… you are nothing but a goddam Black nigger. Tennesse Missouri Kentucky Virginia N. Carolina and Arkansas is going to secede Glory be to god on high []
  4. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []


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