February 2007

The Origins of Valentines Day

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Teddy Roosevelt Shot by Anarchist
Manuscript of Speech Saves His Life

A question in a trivia book lead me into researching this article. The question was: "Which president's life was saved due to a speech he had prepared?" A little blurb on the card explained that Teddy Roosevelt was about to give a speech when an assailant ran forward and fired a shot. Due to the thickness of the manuscript of the speech, it acted as a deterent and slowed the bullet down enough so that it only pierced him -- a sort of bullet-proof vest if you will. A quick trip to the library and I was able to find on microfilm a copy of the October 15, 1912 edition of the Detroit Free Press. Right there on the front page was the news all about it. Printed here are transcripts of the text of the news accounts.

Milwaukee, Wis., October 14 -- A desperate attempt to kill Col. Theodore Roosevelt tonight failed when a 32 caliber bullet aimed directly at the heart of the former president and fired at short range by the crazed assailant, spent part of its force in a bundle of manuscript containing the address which Co. Roosevelt was to deliver tonight, and wounded the Progressive candidate for President. Col. Roosevelt delivered part of his scheduled address with the bullet in his body, his blood staining his white vest as he spoke to a huge throng at the auditorium. Later, he collapsed, weakened by the wound, and was rushed to Emergency hospital.

Shot in Front of Hotel

The shooting took place in the street in front of the Hotel Gilpatrick. Col. Roosevelt reached Milwaukee shortly after 5 o'clock and making his way through the crowd which had gathered at the station, entered an automobile and was driven to a private dining room on the main floor with the members of the party on his private car.

After dinner Col. Roosevelt stood up, waving his hat in answer to the cheers of the crowd. The assassin was standing in the crowd a few feet from the automobile. He pushed his way to the side of the car and, raising his gun, fired.

Henry F. Cochems, former athlete and Chairman of the Progressive Party speaker's bureau, and Elbert Martin, Roosevelt's stenographer, seized the man and held him until policemen came up. John Schrank, who is small of stature, admitted firing the shot and said that "any man looking for a third term ought to be shot."

Col. Roosevelt barely moved as the shot was fired. Before the crowd knew what had happened, Martin, who is six feet tall and a former football player, had landed squarely on the assassin's shoulders and borne him to the ground. He threw his right arm about the man's neck with a death-like grip and with his left arm seized the hand that held the revolver. In another second he had disarmed him.

All this happened within a few seconds and Col. Roosevelt stood gazing rather curiously at the man who attempted his life before the stunned crowd realized what was going on.

Col. Roosevelt refused to allow doctors to examine him at first. Later, doctors made an examination of the wound and announced "Col. Roosevelt is suffering from a superficial flesh wound. Bleeding was insignificant. He soon traveled on to the Auditorium where he was scheduled to give a speech."

Bullet Perforates Manuscript

The manuscript of his speech doubtless had done much to save his life. When he had come upon the platform at the Auditorium he drew the manuscript from his vest pocket during his first few words, the torn sheets of paper, showing many stains blood, showed also that the bullet had gone through the manuscript.

"You see," cried the colonel holding up the manuscript so that the audience could see the bullet hole through the sheets of paper, "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose."

January Brain Teaser

Your aged grandmother tells you she was born on February 29, 1900. How old is she as of the date you are doing this puzzle?

Answer: 1900 was not a leap year so she couldn't have been born on February 29, 1900.

This issues' brainteaser: A man left home one day and made three left turns and met a man with a mask on. What was the first man's profession?

Answer next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

New Book of Interest to History Buffs
Days of Valor

An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
By Robert L. Tonsetic
In the book, the reader enters a nonstop maelstrom of combat action, leaving he or she nearly breathless by the end. The human courage and carnage described in these pages resonates through the centuries, from Borodino to the Bulge, but the focus here is on the Vietnam War, and the unique unit formed to take part at its height. The 199th Light Infantry Brigade was created from three U. S. infantry battallions of long lineage, as a fast reaction force for the U. S. to place in Indochina.

Days of Valor covers the height of the Vietnam War, from the nervous period just before Tet, through the defeat of that offensive, to the highly underwritten yet equally bloody NVA counteroffensive launched in May 1968.

The book ends with a brief note about the 199th LIB being deactivated in spring 1970, furling its colors after suffering 753 dead and some 5,000 wounded. The brigade had only been a temporary creation, designed for one purpose. Though its heroism is now a matter of history, it should remain a source of pride for all Americans. This fascinating book will help remind us.

The book can be ordered online from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com

January Contest

GRAND PRIZE QUESTION: There were six men credited with helping raise the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. What were their names?


1) John Bradley
2) Ira Hayes
3) Franklin Sousley
4) Michael Strank
5) Harlon Block
6) Rene Gagnon

ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: What woman, due to her actions during the American Civil War, became known as the "angel of mercy" and founded the American Red Cross?

ALTERNATE PRIZE ANSWER: Clara Barton - Although Florence Nightingale was also referred to as being an "angel of mercy," it was Clara Barton that founded the Red Cross.

Ninety-three people entered the contests. Twenty-eight people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. Only one prize went uclaimed.
The January contest winners were:
  • Mike Fleming - Flordia
  • Karen Duld - Pennsylvania
  • Maria Yarber - Texas
  • J.R. Bouma - The Netherlands
  • Bruce Wheeler - Ohio
  • Grace Wolfe - Idaho

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: Who was the first child born in America of English parents?

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: There are only two United States presidents that are buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Name both.

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, February 15, 2007. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • Subscribers may enter all three contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter either contest, email your answer to help@historybuff.com.

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading.

  • If entering for alternate prize contest, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading.

  • Alternate contest entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize. The Grand Prize is considered as only one prize.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, SIX will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

  • From subscribers entering the Grand Prize contest, one will be selected to win the prize from those submitting the correct subject heading, correct answer, and by the deadline.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
Grand Prize
(One winner will be selected)


    Days of Valor
    An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
    By RobertL. Tonsetic

Alternate Contest Prizes
Alternate Contest Prizes (Only one of each offered)

Wonder Toons Volume 3 (1960's)
Popeye, Deputy Dawg, Casper & More

The Jackie Robinson Story
Jackie Robinson plays himself!

Original Historic Newspapers

Original New-York Spectator historic newspaper from 1832

Original New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette historic newspaper from 1868

Original New York Herald historic newspaper from 1870

Original Salem Gazette historic newspaper from 1879
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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