Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines and Cowboys

Romance in the Old West
by Jacquie Rogers

Valentine's Day is a fun one for lovers, and has been popular in American for a quite a while.  It was widely celebrated in the Old West.

Lovers have been giving gifts to their special someone since the Middle Ages, but fancy cards didn't make their appearance until the postal service was available to all.  That didn't happen until Victorian Era, both in England and America.

Want to buy a Valentine's Day card?  Americans can thank Esther Howland for them.  She started the card business in 1850 at her father's stationery story in Worcester, Massachusetts after having received a decorated card from England.  She expected to sell $200 worth but that very first year, she received $5,000 of orders!  Valentine's Day cards grew in popularity during the Civil War when so many lovers were separated, but the hugest increase was immediately after hostilities had ceased.  This is when humorous cards made their entrance.

And now to the Wild West.  Valentine's cards and mail delivery go hand-in-hand, so when the transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869, guess what? You've Got Mail.  

Miners and cowhands had left their sweethearts back east to make their fortunes in the west.  The dearth of female companionship made their hearts grow fonder for the girl back home.  They sent whatever they could find at the store.  If a man couldn't write, he'd sign the card with an X, then he'd weasel someone into addressing the envelope for him--usually cost him a few drinks at the local saloon.  Sending card that his girl would receive on Valentine's Day was just the ticket, especially accompanied by a little something--maybe a garnet brooch or a gold watch.

In return, he checked the general delivery every day to see if someone, especially his girl or his mother, sent him a letter.  A woman didn't send her beau a Valentine's Day card because it would be considered way too forward.  Instead, she'd send a nice letter about their family and mutual friends, maybe with a lock of her hair, and the lonesome cowhand or miner would be all too happy to get a little slice of home.

Don't forget to check out the Reading Romances Saint Valentine's Day Giveaway Hop.  You can start with my post and the other links are at the bottom, so visit everyone and score some great stuff!

Where the Old West really happened!
Much Ado About Marshals
Much Ado About Madams
Much Ado About Mavericks

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