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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Valentine Potpourri

The Wisconsin presidential primary was well underway on Valentine's Day in 1960, just as it is today. Comparatively unknown in rural America at the time, Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy visited Whitewater, Elkhorn, and Lake Geneva on Valentines Day 1960, greeting individual voters with the line, "Hello there, I'm Jack Kennedy. I'm a candidate in the Democratic primary for president, and I invite your support."

But Valentines Day is better known as a time for courting than campaigning. Years ago, people didn't buy mass-produced cards from multinational corporations in chain stores. They made valentines themselves as a personal expression of their feelings. For example, here are the winners and entries in the 1932 Capital Times valentine contest.

Of course, merchants have always tried to capitalize on the holiday sentiment of their customers. Here's the main floor of Manchester's Department Store in Madison with valentine displays in 1941. Within a year of that display, American couples would be torn apart by war. This rhyming valentine was sent by a soldier in the Pacific back to his wife back in Wisconsin in 1943.

We don't know when schoolkids began exchanging valentines in classrooms, but one aspect of it that seems to have died out is the crowning of a king and queen like these two in Milwaukee. Compulsory expressions of affection between children always struck some people as odd, but to compete for king and queen at it is an especially strange twist.

You can view more Valentines Day photos at our Wisconsin Historical Images collection. You'll find 35,000 other pictures there, too, and you can buy a high-quality reproduction suitable for framing of anything you see. Look for the house you grew up in, your home town, or browse through galleries of photos about special topics.
:: Posted in on February 13, 2008

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