Origins of profitable Valentine’s Day are somewhat mysterious

Saint Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla, detail of painting by 16th century Italian painter Jacobo Bassano
February 14th, 2016     History

It is not true that Joyce Clyde Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, created Valentine’s Day.

Joyce Clyde "Call me J.C." Hall, 1891-1982

Joyce Clyde “Call me J.C.” Hall, 1891-1982

It is true that Hallmark Cards, the company he founded in Kansas City in 1928, has enjoyed millions of dollars in sales using the name of the third century saint and martyr of that name.

The Roman Catholic Church itself knows relatively little about Saint Valentine, and there are even conflicts among church historians as to which of three persons (one of them a woman) named Valentine was actually proclaimed a saint. Most agree that it was Bishop Valentine of Interamna that Pope Gelasius I had in mind when he proclaimed the feast day of Saint Valentine in 496 A.D.

n this painting by 17th century Flemish painter David Teniers III St. Valentine is shown receiving a rosary from the Virgin Mary.

In this painting by 17th century Flemish painter David Teniers III, St. Valentine is shown receiving a rosary from the Virgin Mary.

Church tradition says that Bishop Valentine was captured, tortured and killed on February 14, in either 269 A.D. or 273 A.D., by agents of the Roman Empire. One version of the story is that Bishop Valentine was targeted because he performed wedding ceremonies for Roman soldiers, who were forbidden to marry. Some versions of the legend have the condemned Bishop leaving behind a note for a female friend, signed “from your Valentine”.

It is generally believed that Saint Valentine was first associated with romantic love by English writer  Geoffrey Chaucer, author of Canterbury Tales, and his circle in the 14the century. It is said that the feast of Saint Valentine evolved into a day for lovers to express their love for each other by giving flowers, candy and greeting cards in 18th century England.

Valentine’s cards were mostly hand written until the 20th century, which is of course, when Joyce Hall founded Hallmark.

Joyce Clyde Hall, who for some reason hated his first name and insisted on being called “J.C.,”  died at age 91 in Kansas City in 1982.

Happy Valentine’s Day from

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