Accessible Archives is for (History) Lovers

Ahhh, St. Valentine’s Day. How do I love thee? Let me trace your origins. Were you, in fact, created by Hallmark cards or Russell Stover Candies, as we have suspected all along? Luckily, Fintel Library currently has access to Accessible Archives, a rich, comphrehensive database that contains full text historical accounts, such as newspaper and magazine articles from the mid-1800s. The researcher can get a glimpse into the daily lives of 18th and 19th century Americans.
So, what does Accessible Archives have to say about “Valentine’s Day”? A lot.
Out of the 1500 results that come up after the keyword “Valentines” is searched, Godey’s Lady’s Book has the most interesting articles. According to one that was published in February of 1867, Valentine’s Day has origins dating back to ancient Rome.

“THE following account of the origin and customs of St. Valentine’ s day in the olden time is taken from an old author:— “It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honor of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who by every possible means endeavored to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women; and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine’ s day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time. It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed; a fact which it were easy to prove it tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions. And accordingly the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually became reciprocal in the sexes; and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines , from the day on which the ceremony took place.”

Other customs are mentioned that are more current, though still dating to the early 1800s. One in particular is this researcher’s favorite:

A singular custom prevailed many years since in the west of England. “Three single young men went out together before daylight on St.  Valentine’s day, with a clapnet to catch an old owl and two sparrows in a neighboring barn. If they were successful, and could bring the birds to the inn without injury before the females of the house had risen, they were rewarded by the hostess with three pots of purl in honor of St. Valentine, and enjoyed the privilege of demanding at any other house in the neighborhood a similar boon. This was done, says our correspondent, as an emblem that the owl being the bird of wisdom, could influence the feathered race to enter the net of love as mates on that day, whereon both single lads and maidens should be reminded that happiness could alone be secured by an early union.”

An owl had to be captured?! That ups the ante a bit. Aren’t you glad it’s all just roses and candies now?

Here is a link to our Accessible Archives Trial, along with all of the content it covers:


African American Newspapers: The 19th Century, Parts I–XII Supplement

The Christian Recorder                      01/19/1861 – 12/31/1902                

                The Colored American                       03/04/1837 – 12/25/1841                

                Frederick Douglass Paper                   06/26/1851 – 12/14/1855                

                                                                                01/1859 – 12/1863            

                Freedom’s Journal                               03/16/1827 – 03/28/1829                

                The National Era                                 01/07/1847 – 03/22/1860                                                

                The North Star                                     12/03/1847 – 04/17/1851                

                Provincial Freeman                             01/20/1854 – 09/12/1857                

            Weekly Advocate                   01/07/1837 – 02/25/1837

American County Histories to 1900 I: Mid-Atlantic States



                New Jersey

                New York I – Southeast

                New York II – Central

                New York III – West

                New York IV – North

                Pennsylvania I – East

                Pennsylvania II – Central

                Pennsylvania III – Southwest

                Pennsylvania IV – Northwest

American County Histories to 1900 II: New England States




                New Hampshire

                Rhode Island


The Civil War, Part I: A Newspaper Perspective                                                     

                The Charleston Mercury                    12/24/1860 – 02/11/1865                                                

                The New York Herald                         01/01/1861 –  05/31/1865                                                               

                Richmond Enquirer                             01/01/1861 – 02/18/1865                                                

The Civil War, Part II: The Soldiers’ Perspective                                                               

                (see “Detailed Descriptions” section below for publication titles)

The Civil War, Part III: The Generals’ Perspective                                            

                (see “Detailed Descriptions” section below for publication titles)

The Civil War, Part IV: A Midwestern Perspective                                           

                News of the Day                                              1855-1857                                           

                The Old Post Union                         1862: 5 months worth                   
                                (became The Vincennes Times)

                Stars & Stripes                                   1862: 2 issues                                    
                Vincennes Courant                         1855-1856                                           
                Vincennes Gazette                         1855-1869                                                           
                The Vincennes Times                     1865-1866                                           
                Vincennes Western Sun                               1856-1869                                           
The Civil War, Part V: Iowa’s Perspective                                                            

(see “Detailed Descriptions” section below for publication titles)

The Civil War, Part VI: Northeast Regimental Histories                                

(see “Detailed Descriptions” section below for publication titles)

Godey’s Lady’s Book                                      07/1830 – 12/1898                          

The Liberator                                                     01/01/1831 – 12/31/1865                

The Pennsylvania Gazette                                           10/01/1728 – 12/31/1800             

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue         

                Village Record                                   01/07/1818 – 12/31/1870                             

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Record: Delaware County

                Delaware County American              07/02/1851 – 01/25/1871                                                                                

                Delaware County Democrat             two issues                                                                             

                Delaware County Republican           08/30/1833 – 12/30/1870                

                The Post Boy                                      few issues                                             

                The Upland Union                           08/23/1825 – 11/03/1835;                            

01/02/1850 – 03/17/1852

South Carolina Newspapers

                The Charlestown Gazette                                  1779 – 1780                       

                The Gazette of the State of South-Carolina     1777 – 1780                     
                South Carolina & American General Gazette 1764 – 1775                       

                The South Carolina Gazette                               01/08/1732 – 12/28/1775 

                South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal  1765 – 1775                     

The Virginia Gazette                                      09/10/1736 – 04/08/1780

The American Republican                             few sporadic issues 1810 – 1861               

Chester & Delaware Federalist                                  06/21/1809 – 12/31/1817                                             

Chester County Republican                                         06/10/1842 – 09/09/1842                                                             

Eden Star                                                             few issues                                          

Media Advertiser                                             03/01/1855 – 02/13/1856                             

Literary Magazine                                            few issues                                          

The Pennsylvania Packet                              04/15/1776 – 01/02/1779                             

The Weekly Visitor                                          few issues                                          

Westchester Gazette                                     few issues


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