New Hampshire’s weather was unsettled on Valentines Day, February 14, 1917. So was the nation, and the world.
Unbeknown to lovers, sweethearts and the devoted, the entrance of the United States into the Great War was only two months away. Bonds of affection were soon to be tested in a most terrible way.
You would not know by the front page of The Portsmouth Herald that it was a day to celebrate love. Other than a ring sale, that only hinted at romance, all other articles and notices dealt with serious issues. Americans were being detained in both Germany and Asia Minor, and the situation was serious to the State Department. Several stories tried to reassure the public stating that a “safety line” for passenger ships had been established by using military escorts. A special notice mentions that merchant vessels would be installing guns for protection.
In Portsmouth, the King’s Daughters of the North Church held a Valentine Sale and decorated this way: “The rooms were attractively dressed with pine boughs and red crepe paper while red hearts were used in decoration for the various tables.” The article states that the event was “well patronized and its success financially is assured.” On the same page, Christ Church Parish announced a Valentine Party that same evening.
There was some New Hampshire news interspersed between heavy stories about military preparation. In Manchester NH, the Rev. George A. Guertin, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Manchester came formally into possession of a four-story brick structure on the corner of Hanover and Union Streets that then contained the Sacred Heart Hospital, the Catholic orphanage, the Home for Aged Women and The Infant asylum. Plans were being made to move all except the hospital portion.
Another news story reminds us of the limits of communication at that time. Because the Isles of Shoals had no cable communication, “Keeper George B. Ricker of Station No. 14, located on Appledore Island was advised of his appointment as keeper in the U.S. Coast Guard by means of the international code of signals, the message being sent by Keeper S.F. Wells of Station No. 13 at Wallis Sands where Mr. Ricker formerly served as No. 1 surfman previous to his receiving the acting appointment at the former station on August 1, 1916.”
Meanwhile in the Nashua Telegraph newspaper [that had a price of two cents] a great deal more attention was paid to patriotic services held in honor of Lincoln’s Birthday than to romance. The Headlines spoke of the war in Europe–an ocean liner sunk, a munitions factory aflame in Piraeus, Greece. In a separate story, the town of Hudson had held a reception to soldiers of the Mexican war who had just returned home.
All these newspapers were full of advertisements for vaudeville, theater and other amusements. The Elks’ Ball and Valentine Party was held in Portsmouth as a reception to then Governor Henry W. Keyes and Staff. It was called “An Event of the Season.” The horrors of the mis-named “Spanish flu” pandemic was still more than a year away, when gatherings would be cancelled, theaters closed, and public places avoided.
Why did I focus on 1917? 2017 is the centennial (100th anniversary) of United States involvement in The Great War also known as World War I. This story is a series of ongoing articles relating to the people, places and events of that war.
New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War
[This link includes information on:]
– WWI Memorials in Concord, New Hampshire
– WWI Memorials in Nashua, New Hampshire
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Berlin
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Hancock
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Nashua
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Manchester
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Tilton
– New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Keene