Valentine’s Day of Yesteryear

by Laurie Thompson

Published in the 1917 Marin Journal in honor of Valentine’s Day.

In the early 1900s Valentine’s Day was a social event in Marin celebrated in community spaces and at private homes. In 1908, Odd Fellow’s Hall in San Rafael held a Valentine Social characterized by the Marin Journal as “one of the big successes of the season with over seventy-five persons being present.”

There was a large and elaborate lot of hand-painted and home-constructed valentines on exhibition, which were later sold to the guests at very reasonable prices…. “ Later the guests were treated to the “most amusing part of the program” which involved placing arms, legs, bodies, feet and heads of pasteboard persons in boxes and allowing people to grab at the boxes until all were taken out. They were then to form a body out of the parts grabbed and some very unique and grotesque figures were fixed up.

In 1910 the Pocahontas Lodge gave a Valentine Social at San Rafael’s Redmen Hall. The Journal reported that the rooms were artistically decorated and the large crowd enjoyed every moment.

One of the novel features…was the manner in which the Valentines were distributed. There was a place to purchase the Valentines and when addressed they were put in a postoffice and the names called out and the owner’s would come forward to receive them, many of the Valentines caused much merriment. One in particular is deserving of mention… [It] was the one received by Jack Mahar. When his name was called he came forward with much expectancy. He was told to wait a moment and then a large box was wheeled into the middle of the floor and Jack had to get a coal chistle [chisel] to break open his package. When the lid was removed, what was the surprise of the owner and the audience to see emerge a fairy Valentine full of life. Upon close inspection, the living Valentine proved to be Miss Sadie Brown, dressed as a doll. To say that Jack was agreeably surprised is putting it mildly.

Afterwords the party sat down to enjoy a Valentine’s Day banquet.

Originally published at



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