Introduction: In this article, Katie Rebecca Garner searches old newspapers to find articles about our ancestors and Valentine’s Day from 100 years ago. Katie specializes in U.S. research for family history, enjoys writing and researching, and is developing curricula for teaching children genealogy.
Newspapers are a window into the past, the forerunner of social media. Reading old newspapers can give us a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. Let’s look at a few articles printed on Valentine’s Day 100 years ago in the newspapers.
Photo credit: https://depositphotos.com/home.html
Even advertisements, such as the one below, can show us what life was like for our ancestors. This ad for the Victrola lists several records for sale.
These songs were likely popular at the time. A quick YouTube search may allow you to play these songs today. I found a few of the Fox Trot songs in the above ad; they are listed below. Some came out in 1923 and 1924, so they were new when the above advertisement was printed.
Some newspaper reporters 100 years ago discussed what was taught in church. One reported an evangelist who said that love in place of hate is victory. Is it a coincidence that this article was published on Valentine’s Day? Love is mentioned in the article, but not in a romantic context. Even today, some prefer to focus on the non-romance side of love in their celebrations.
Others posted in the newspapers about romantic love. Some newspaper columns, such as the one below, could be considered the ancestors of memes.
It is unclear from the above snippet whether Peggy and her darling were an actual or fictitious couple. In either case, Peggy wanted to be more certain of his love for her. This concern is still prevalent this century based on the number of relationship books printed today. If you relate to this, it’s possible your ancestors did too.
In another snippet in such a column, a husband and wife first discuss finances after getting married. The wife, during their courtship, evidently felt she could not mention what happened with her money after her late husband’s death because her beau did not want her to discuss her former husband in his presence. This humorous anecdote can be seen as a lesson in communication in relationships.
The newspapers of 1924 also portrayed the tradition of exchanging valentines among friends. Today, many schoolchildren obtain boxes of mini-valentines to give out to their classmates, sometimes with candy. Based on the below news clipping, this tradition has existed for at least a century.
This article mentions the advent of ready-made valentines, which has allowed the exchanging of valentines’ messages to occur between friends in general. Before this, valentines’ messages had been left anonymously, requiring the recipient to guess “from whom the missive came.” In short, the Industrial Revolution can be thanked for this change in tradition.
A cartoon artist took the idea of rhymes on valentines to make fun of flappers. The artist, Rube Goldberg, did not seem to think highly of women cutting their hair short or putting on enough make-up to make a phony face. Until the 1920s, the common style for women was keeping their hair long and wearing it pinned up. Cutting hair short was a new thing. Wearing skirts to the knees instead of ankles was also introduced in the 1920s.
These sarcastic valentines by Rube Goldberg included these zingers:
The Boyish-Bobbed Dumbbell
There isn’t much outside your head,
There’s less inside your dome,
But still, although there’s nothing there,
We need you in our home.
Your cheeks and lips are phony,
And your hair is phony, too –
There’s nothing real about you,
But we’re very strong for you.
Older generations shaking their heads at what is popular among the younger generations still occurs a century later; however, what the young people are doing in the 2020s is arguably more radical than what the youth of the 1920s did.
Do you want to know your ancestors better? Pick up the newspapers that they read, such as the collection in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, and see what you can find.
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Note on the header image: “Happy Valentine’s Day” with hearts. Credit: https://depositphotos.com/home.html