Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine’s Day 1850 – James Jones married Phebe Mouser

Esther Howland Valentine, circa 1850: 
"Weddings now are all the go, 
Will you marry me or no"?
James Jones married Phebe Mouser on the 14th of February 1850.  We don’t know anything about the wedding ceremony, but it may have taken place in the Mouser home, near Rocky Mound in Hempstead county Arkansas.  The little community where the Mousers lived no longer appears on modern maps.  But, in its day, Rocky Mound sat about four miles east of the town of Hope in the southwestern corner of Arkansas.  

Did the young couple purposefully choose a Valentine’s Day wedding?   In 1850, the 14th of February fell on a Thursday.  It was not uncommon during this period to have a “weekday” wedding.  In the mid-nineteenth century wedding traditions were shifting from a church ceremony, to a more intimate gathering in the bride’s family home.  Weddings were often held in the morning, and were followed by a breakfast for the guests. 

But, what of the Valentine’s Day connection?   The origin of Valentine’s Day is probably related to a St Valentine who was celebrated on the Catholic liturgical calendar on the 14th of February.  In the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to link the Christian feast day to romantic love, by the writing of a poem.  Gradually the practice of exchanging cards and gifts grew up around the feast day.  By the 18th century, traditions of homemade cards with lace, ribbons, cupids, and hearts were popular in England.  America followed after. 

Only a few years before the Jones and Mouser wedding a new epoch in Valentine’s Day celebrations had begun.  In 1847, Esther Howland, a young woman in Worcester Massachusetts, began a business of mass producing Valentine cards.  The story goes that Esther, inspired by a lovely valentine card she had received from England, began a “cottage industry”.  Her father, a prominent stationer in Worcester, was able to import supplies of paper lace, ribbon and decorations, and her brother was her first salesman.  The business, under her direction for almost thirty-five years, proved wildly successful. 

It is satisfying to think that James and Phoebe chose the “traditional day of romance” for their wedding.  The surging popularity of the holiday around 1850, suggests this as a real possibility.  But, whether true or not, the day was likely filled with wishes for love and happiness from their family and friends. 

For more details on James Jones and Phoebe Mouser, visit their individual pages at Family Stories, 

Moving back in time:  Edith W Tanner 1902 (wife of Robert Hutchison) > Mary Lula Smith 1879 > Eliza Alice Jones 1859 > James Jones 1824 (married Phoebe Mouser)

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