Today marks the sixth time since Little Rock was permanently settled in 1820 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. The previous years are 1866, 1877, 1923, 1934, and 1945.
The 1866 Arkansas Gazette for February 14 contains no mention of it being either Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day. Eleven years later, the paper carried a history of Valentine’s Day, but no mention of the religious observance on that day. The story in the Gazette discussed the hard work of the designers, lithographers, lace makers, and other artisans who created the cards and other tokens which were sent. The writer noted that none of that work was romantic. It was tasks those people undertook every day. What made it romantic, the writer continued, was the intent of the person who sent it.
In 1923, only one ad in the paper mentioned Valentine’s Day – the Exchange National Bank. There were no stories on Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras or Ash Wednesday. The stories that pertained to churches discussed revivals and new clergy, but no services for penance.
In 1934, the only mention of Ash Wednesday was in the regular Saturday religious feature. It previewed the various churches Ash Wednesday services in addition to discussing Sunday sermon topics. Again, there was no mention that Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day. Camay Soap and Pfeifer’s Department Store were the only ads on February 14 which made mention of the romantic holiday.
The 1945 newspaper coverage was very similar to eleven years earlier. Previews of Ash Wednesday on Saturday the 10th dominated the religious section on Saturday – but no mention of the other holiday. The days leading up to Valentine’s Day saw quite a few advertisements from various national companies and local businesses regarding the holiday. On February 14, however, the only Valentine’s ads were for Pfeifer and for several of the local movie theatres. Blass Department Store, which had been focused on Valentine’s Day through February 13, used the 14th to switch the focus to springwear.