Passionate Patriots: Valentine’s Day in Colonial America

Passion conjures up images of Valentine’s Day more than it does the Fourth of July. The Founding Fathers were serious men about the serious business of changing the world through revolution and a brilliantly written document. But these men were passionate about their women, too. Just look at the love letters between John and Abigail Adams, for example. Addressing her as “Miss Adorable,” Adams wrote:


“By the same Token that the Bearer hereof satt [sic] up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account.”


Oooh-la-la, Miss Adorable!


Antique Puzzle Purse
American valentine puzzle found in England. With a magical folding technique, this puzzle can be folded into a secure packet. Once opened, gradually reveal separate images and poems. The prize at the center is often a romantic image or poem, ca 1816 from: Colonial Sense

As I researched Colonial America for Love’s Courage, my third book in the Passionate Patriots series, I came across some Valentine’s Day customs of that time period. Although there were Valentines in the 18th century, in Colonial America the day was celebrated in very different ways than Hallmark dictates today. Instead of receiving candy or flowers from a beau, one of the following customs might reveal a true love:


  • A person pinned five bay leaves to her pillow at night, one at each corner and one in the middle. If she dreamed of her sweetheart, they would be married within the year.


  • A young lady wrote the names of young men of the village on paper and rolled the names in clay. The names were dropped in a vessel of water and the first to rise to the top was her valentine.



  • The first person a young lady saw in the morning would become her spouse. This caused many of them to keep their eyes closed until a family member or trusted friend had her in the sight-line of her preferred beau.


In Love’s Courage I’m not sure if Andrew and Jenny will be thinking of Valentine customs as they risk all to be reuinited, becoming embroiled in General George Washington’s citizen spy network. But I know their love for each other is true and they didn’t need to pin bay leaves to their pillows to discover that.


Love’ Courage Blurb


When Jenny Sutton is summoned home to Boston to help her injured father, she leaves her beloved Andrew in Williamsburg despairing that she will never see him again. Upon her arrival in Boston, a hotbed of revolt against the British, she finds her father mortally wounded. Risking imprisonment and possibly hanging, she joins a Patriot spy network to avenge her father’s death.


As Andrew Wentworth watches Jenny sail away, he vows to do whatever it takes to reunite with her in Boston. Joining the Patriot spy network he makes the perilous journey from Williamsburg to Boston. Upon arriving he is forbidden to contact Jenny, for his safety and hers, but their love cannot keep them apart. Imprisoned and sentenced to death, it will take love’s courage to save them.



Love’s Courage will be available in summer 2016. Meanwhile, meet Jenny and Andrew in the first two books in the series:


Love’s Destiny


Love’s Spirit




One of the earliest cut out and hand-colored valentines was sent to Elizabeth Sandwith from Henry Drinker in Philadelphia in 1753. Elizabeth eventually became his wife. from Colonial Sense





Photos from’s_Day/Colonial_Valentines.php



2 thoughts on “Passionate Patriots: Valentine’s Day in Colonial America

  1. Very interesting, Elizabeth–esp. about the bay leaves on the pillow. My first thought was of the dried leaves we buy in the spice section of the grocery store and wondered how you could pin the leaves without them breaking. LOL Wishing you much success with your upcoming book.

    • Elizabeth Meyette says:

      Good point, Diane! I imagine they picked the leaves fresh, but what a fragrant sleep they must have had! Thank you for your good wishes and for visiting today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *