Valentine’s Day: A day for love, blood and mystery

State News

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

There’s a reason the color for Valentine’s Day is red: Throughout history, more than love has surrounded this particular day.

Fire, murder and destruction have also claimed a piece of the day through time. In fact, a broken heart may be more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than a complete heart, flowers and chocolate:

269: A bloody first Valentine’s Day. The person for whom the day is named, Saint Valentine, was reportedly beaten to death and beheaded on the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius, who told Valentine to either renounce his faith or be put to death. There are varying accounts of priests named Valentine around this time, and the accounts may be of separate people or be slightly different takes on the same person.

1349: Anywhere from 200 to 2,000 Jews are burned at the stake in Strasbourg, Germany. One reason for the murders was the widespread belief that Jews were responsible for the Black Death pandemic that swept across Europe in 1348-1350, killing between one-third and two-thirds of the continent’s population.

1400: The deposed King Richard II is murdered in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. Actually, no one really knows the exact cause of death — murdered, or starved to death in one of the castle dungeons.

1906: Fire destroys the Krem Roller Mill in Mercer County, ND. The four-story mill, built in 1899, could crush up to 65 barrels of grain a day, according to newspaper accounts at the time. Usually running 24 hours a day, the machinery that ran the mill was powered by coal. And when the coal ran out, straw was used as a substitute fuel source. And therein laid the mill’s fate. Some straw caught fire and, in no time, the facility was on fire and burned to the ground.

1929: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, Illinois. Seven members of the “Bugs” Moran gang are mowed down in a garage by members of the Al Capone gang. The killers were dressed in police uniforms and burst into the garage, ordering the people in the shop to line up against a brick wall. They then unloaded hundreds of rounds into the victims and fled. One man barely survived the shooting, but died in the hospital hours later without revealing what he knew about who did the killing.

1989: Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini orders the murder of an author. Khomeini claimed Salman Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses,” was blasphemous and issued a “fatwa,” or edict, calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie. The author is still alive today, living in the United States. The fatwa has never been officially lifted.

At the same time, some benign and positive things have happened on Valentine’s Day through history, balancing the murder and mayhem of the day:

1849: The first presidential photograph is taken of President James Polk. The photographer is Matthew Brady, who would later make a name for himself for his Civil War photos. 

1876: Rival inventor Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both apply for patents for the telephone. Bell eventually wins the patent. 

1912: Arizona becomes the 48th state. In fact, it was the last of the contiguous, or connected, states to be admitted. After Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii — both of which are not directly connected to any other states in the U.S., joined the Union as the 49th and 50th states, respectively.

1920: The League of Women Voters is officially founded in Chicago, Illinois, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the right to vote. Formed by the suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the League began as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.

1924: The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) is reorganized and renamed International Business Machines, or IBM. Company President Thomas Watson is responsible for pushing the change and helping guide the company into the computer business in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, the development of the IBM System/360 mainframe computer helped sparked the computing revolution in business and, later, the personal computer revolution.

1946: The ENIAC computer is introduced, the first electronic digital computer. ENIAC stands for “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.” It was developed at the University of Pennsylvania under a 1943 contract with the U.S. Army to speed ballistic calculations in war. In other words, figure the angle at which to launch an explosive device so it lands on a distant target.

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