"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day, Valentine's Edition

Memphis Daily Appeal, February 15, 1881

I regard Valentine's Day in much the same light as the Grinch thought of Christmas. Consider the following stories as my way of celebrating this Friday's annual orgy of desperately forced ersatz romanticism.

To start with, here's someone I feel really got into the spirit of the thing. From the "San Francisco Call," March 21, 1905:

Willows, March 20.--Dennis Coyne, a postal inspector, is in Willows investigating a scandal growing out of scurrilous letters sent to certain young women of this town on St. Valentine's day. The matter will be more fully investigated. Inspector Coyne yesterday interviewed the recipients of the letters.

Send a Valentine, go to jail!   The "Evening Critic," May 9, 1882:

The case of James Shea, charged with sending obscene pictures through the mails in violation of section 3863 of the Revised Statutes, was before United States Commissioner Samuel C. Mills yesterday afternoon. The evidence of Sue Mayes and Belle Mayes was taken, and to the effect that they received two valentines in which vulgar and indecent language was used. Without completing the testimony the hearing was continued until Friday next.

St. Valentine's, patron saint of crime sprees.  The "Los Angeles Herald," March 31, 1895:

M.R. Dominguez, a citizen of Santa Inez, was examined before United States Commissioner Van Dyke yesterday on the charge of having sent obscene matter through the mails, and discharged. The matter complained of consisted of a vulgar valentine sent to another man at Santa Inez, Santa Barbara county, upon the back of which there were some very vulgar epithets in the Spanish language, but the government failed to connect the defendant with the paper, and his discharge was the necessary sequence.

My Funny Felony Valentine. From the "Iola Register," February 17, 1888:

Valentine's Day brought forth at least one tragedy that has been made part of the public records. On Wednesday a certain young man called on a young lady living a few miles from town. While he was talking to her a woman living in the house slipped up behind him and hit him over the head with a boot jack, remarking that she would "teach him how to send her insulting valentines!" The young man evidently concluded to reciprocate by teaching her the true use of a boot jack, so had her arrested and brought before Justice Smelzer, charged with assault and battery. She plead guilty to the charge and was fined $1 and costs.

Here's an admirably enterprising spirit. From the "Washington Evening Star," February 20, 1860:

In New York, on St. Valentine's day, a man named Moore was detected in traveling through the Sixth avenue with a carpet-bag full of envelopes addressed to different persons, which he would leave at their residences, and, having collected his two cents, would depart before his victims discovered that the envelopes contained only blank paper. The man was arrested, and confessed that, taking advantage of the Valentine season, he had made several dollars in that manner, the plan having been concocted by himself and landlady. He was held for examination.

Why waste your money on flowers or diamonds for your lady love when you can present her with a dead rat? From the "Juniata Sentinel," March 6, 1872:

A grand rat hunt was held in Amwell township, on St. Valentine's day, by a party of gentlemen from there and an equal number from Franklin township the losing party to pay for the dinner. Six thousand two hundred rats were killed.

Valentine's Day has a way of destroying a man's sense of humor. From the "San Francisco Call," February 15, 1906:

BERKELEY, Feb. 14.— For passing a jocular remark Miss Mary Peters was viciously attacked and beaten on the head with a bottle by James Surman, a machinist, to-night at Fifth street and University avenue, West Berkeley. Letitia Levina, a friend of Miss Peters, witnessed the attack. The two girls were walking along University avenue when they noticed Surman, whom they were acquainted with, come down the street. He was intoxicated and had two bottles of beer in his pockets. Miss Peters passed a jocular remark in regard to St. Valentine's day, which Surman took offense at, becoming very angry. He advanced upon Miss Peters and dealt her a stunning blow over the head with one of the bottles, which felled her to the ground. The screams of the two girls attracted several persons to the scene. The injured girl was taken to her home for treatment. In the meantime Surman made his escape, but was later arrested by Policeman Atchinson and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The girl had a deep laceration of the scalp.
Ah, romance.


  1. This is extremely wonderful (I am also a Valentine's grinch, and I love weird history/things from old newspapers) - and I'm looking forward to reading more. Glad to have found you again!

    Lidian/Laura, formerly of the Virtual Dime Museum, now at http://the-magic-lantern.tumblr.com

  2. Ah, love. I concur with your assessment of this unfortunate "Hallmark Holiday" as, apparently, do the subjects of these newspaper clippings. Well played, Undine. That's the way to expose this tell-tale heart...

  3. Hi, Lidian! Thanks for informing me of the new site.

    And "The Tell-Tale Heart." Bloody hell, how did I miss that one?


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