Saints, Lovers and the Woman Entrepreneur Responsible for the Valentine’s Day Greeting Card Explosion in the 1800’s
Celebrate Everyone Who Made Valentine’s Day the Institution It Is with Truxton’s Valentine’s Menu Specials Starting Friday, Feb. 10th Through Tuesday, Feb. 14th
The origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit fuzzy. Some claim Geoffrey Chaucer made Saint Valentine up. Others point to the pagan festival Lupercalia in the middle of February that was outlawed at the end of the 5th century and replaced by Valentine’s Feast Day by the Christian church.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One story is of Valentine of Terni, a third-century Roman priest who died as punishment for secretly marrying young couples. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought single men made better soldiers.
Another version suggests that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons. History.com says that while Valentine himself was imprisoned, he sent the first “valentine” greeting,” to the daughter of his jailer who visited him in prison. He allegedly wrote her a letter signed “from your Valentine” on February 14, the day he was put to death. This set the tone for establishing him as both a heroic and romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Fast forward several hundred years and Valentine’s Day has grown in popularity. Written valentines began to be exchanged around 1400. In the 17th and 18th centuries, people in Great Britain exchanged gifts and handwritten notes with friends, family and objects of their affection to commemorate the day. In America, people began exchanging greetings in the 1700’s, and by the 1800’s, printed cards began to be used.
It took a forward-thinking, 19th century American woman, however, to make Valentine’s Day into the institution it is today. Esther Howland was apprenticing in her family’s stationery store in Worcester, Massachusetts following her graduation from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (where Emily Dickinson was a classmate). A card decorated in Victorian-style lace from England arrived for Esther in 1849; it sparked an idea. According to Victorian Treasury, Esther made a dozen valentine’s card samples, which her brother added to his inventory for his next sales trip. Advance sales went through the roof.
The Washington Post wrote that after starting her valentine business—and hiring an all-female staff to cut lace, trim hearts and stencil flowers—Esther and her team were soon turning out thousands of valentines to meet demand. Esther made a name for herself as the “Mother of the American Valentine” and as a business owner, one of the few female entrepreneurs of her time.
Come celebrate Valentine’s Day at Truxton’s American Bistro in Westchester and Santa Monica. We’re starting early on Friday evening, February 10 and going through Tuesday evening, February 14. Since we’re serving our valentine’s dinner for five nights, we’d love to see you more than once with different valentines (your spouse or significant other, Mom or Dad, siblings, cousins, kids, friends or anyone else who has your heart). And because of Esther Howland, we’re sure you will be able to find a card (to bring to dinner) for every object of your affection.
Truxton’s Valentine’s Day special menu is full of food that makes you feel happy and surprisingly often, healthy too: lobster bisque (with dill crème fraiche and a link to the goddess Aphrodite), arugula and artichoke salad (dressed in truffle vinaigrette, with minerals and antioxidants), filet mignon (with roasted Cipollini onions and pomegranate reduction sauce, and peppered with dopamine), seared local halibut (topped with smoked red pepper coulis and Omega-3’s), wild mushroom pappardelle (with sautéed Brussels sprouts and zinc) and tiramisu (with chocolate and endorphins).
Everything on the Valentine’s special menu is individually priced, which means you get exactly what you want, and you’re not hit by a prix fixe menu price. That makes you happy, right?
We hope to see you soon.