Valentine cards had to be ordered from the East Coast in December because it took more than a month to get them to California in the early 1850s, and apparently San Francisco merchants hadn't ordered enough of them.
"Probably by another year we will be so situated in California that we may celebrate the annual feast of merry St. Valentine," the editor of the Daily Alta California wrote in his "City Intelligence" column on Feb. 14, 1851.
On the day after Valentine's Day, the editor, who was afraid that a shortage of valentines would lead to a shortage of "ladies," had this to say in his column:
"There was a considerable degree of disappointment experienced by the ladies of San Francisco yesterday from the fact they could not procure Valentines to send to their friends. We sympathize with them very much and can only hope that if they will continue to grace California with their presence by another year we shall be better supplied with the missiles of love."
On Dec. 27 of that year, the editor had the foresight to remind his readers to send off their valentines to their loved ones in the East by the ship that was leaving in four days.
"All those parties wishing to send valentines to the states per steamer of the first can find a splendid assortment for sale by Cooke and Lecount Stationers and Warehouse at the corner of Battery and Pacific streets."
Four years later there seemed to be a lot of valentines for sale. Comic ones were now coming into fashion and Gardiner and Kirk stationers in Sacramento advertised on Dec. 19, 1855, it had a large lot of both comic and fancy ones coming on the next mail, which would arrive on the steamer Sonora.
The Noisy Carrier's Book and Stationery Co. at 71 Long Wharf in San Francisco touted its beautiful valentines with a rhyme, which appeared in the Daily Alta for a month both before and after Valentine's Day in 1856:
"Remember this is Leap Year and a nice little Valentine may tell. Hear what an 'Old Bard' says on the subject.
"In 56 won't it be sport, for girls are then allowed to court, and every 'Batch' who don't retire from glances sweet and eyes of fire will have to yield his stubborn heart to Cupid's sure unerring dart.
"Go in girls while you have a chance. It only happens once in four years and its your own fault if you don't improve it."
And we end this column with one last story.
Widows were alerted by the Sacramento Daily Union on Feb. 15, 1856, of a valentine that might end up in the dead letter office if one of them did not claim it.
"It is addressed to 'Any Yankee Widow, not over 29 years of age.'
"As there are probably several within the city limits who are entitled to peep within the envelope, we hope the epistle will not be permitted to be sent to the Dead Letter Office. The breaking of the seal may unlock a fortune to the applicant. Who knows?"
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.