valentine’s day

Vintage Valentines celebrate the sweet & sour sides of the holiday

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Most of the origin stories about Valentine’s Day are not true. There really is no link to any one of the five Valentines who share Feb. 14 as their saint days. And the connection to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia seems tenuous at best. That celebration involved sacrificing dogs and goats, and whipping young women and crops with whips made of the goat’ hides to ensure fertility in the coming year. The more modern belief that Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark holiday,” cooked up by the card company to boost sales is also not true – people were exchanging Valentine’s Day greetings for more than a century before the company was founded in 1910. “Most of what we know is probably wrong,” said Steve Ammidown, manuscripts and outreach archivist for the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University. Ammidown visited the Wood County District Public Library to share a selection of vintage Valentine’s Day cards. The first reference to St. Valentine’s Day being associated with lovers comes in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century poem “Parlement of Foules (The Parliament of Fowls).” By the 16th century the tradition of exchanging romantic notes on Valentine’s Day took hold, especially in England and Germany. Exchanging cards began early in the Victorian Era. True to the times, Ammidown said, “complicated and fragile” was the way to go. It was a female entrepreneur, Esther Howland, who founded the first Valentine card manufacturer in America in the 1840s. The Worcester, Massachusetts, businesswoman had a staff to create her line of cards, which “were very ornate, very overwrought.” Ammidown showed a Howland card from the archive’s collection with its intricate patterns and fine, lace-like cut paper. It was meant to display, and its excellent condition indicates it was treasured. The Valentine card business proved attractive enough that competitors sprang up. The most prominent, George Whitney, eventually purchased Howland’s business. “He became the biggest name in Valentine’s cards,” Ammidown said. The business flourished at the turn of the 20th century as the post office became more reliable and postcards became more popular, the archivist said. Though they may have flowery, sentimental sayings on them, sometimes what was written on the back was more pedestrian. The inscription on the front of one declared: “My heart’s a posy blooming for you.” On the back is written: “Your boss said you have to come to work on Monday. He told me this morning. Your mother.” In the 1920s, students started exchanging cards in school. That gave rise to simpler cards with more age appropriate messages. Ammidown said that the library’s collection has grown through donations. Many of the cards come from the Armitage family. While the library may be willing to look at collections, Valentine or other, he said, “we’re not really interested…

Valentine stories of birds, bugs, bunnies and more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As you agonize to find the perfect gift for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, consider yourself lucky that you’re not some species in the animal kingdom. Some male spiders have to perform bizarre dances to win over females. And some male birds are at the mercy of how much red feathering they have to attract a mate. Humans at least can modify their apparel and take dancing lessons. Wood County Park District Naturalist Jim Witter will present a program on Valentine stories from nature on Monday, at 7 p.m., in the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve in Perrysburg Township. Parents need not worry – the program will be G-rated and will not include any awkward animal copulating videos. But it will show some of the courtship behaviors of animals. Forget the box of chocolates. Some animals, such as male bluebirds have “feeding ceremonies,” where they prove to their love interest that they are good providers. “In order to get her to stick around, it’s like, ‘Look at all the dragonflies I can catch,’” Witter said. Eagles sometimes exhibit that same behavior. Some females in the animal kingdom are won over by an attractive male with a good singing voice. That’s the case with red-winged blackbirds. “They do a lot of calling and chasing around back and forth,” Witter said. Experts covered up portions of the red patches on the males, and found that the females no longer fancied those males. “Females tend to select males with larger red patches,” he said. Frogs profess their love through croaking. Usually it’s the male who pursues the female – but not always. Female cardinals have been known to sing to lure males. Like humans, sometimes a male can woo a female with his homey habitat. “He needs the right territory and the most food,” Witter said. Otherwise the female may turn up her beak and look elsewhere for a more worthy mate. The Bowerbird actually sets up “staging areas” while dating. The males keep neat houses in order to attract chicks. But like some humans, once the honeymoon is over the commitment to cleaning evaporates. Also like humans, many animals stray from their mates for romance. “Some birds aren’t as monogamous as scientists once thought,” Witter said. Such is the case with red-winged blackbirds – once thought to be lifelong mates. Closer observation shows some sneaky behavior going on. “While one male is busy driving off another one, a third one sneaks in” to the nest and gets busy with the female. Believe it or not, Witter said paternity tests showed many of the birds had blended families, with the fathers often raising offspring of different dads. Some mammals – like humans and elephants – invest a great deal of time and emotion in their offspring….