Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, Brought to You by

Still trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Try getting some inspiration from historic Alabama newspapers. Check out these ads and see what couples were giving each other a few decades ago. You just might find the solution to your Valentine’s Day quandary.

Candy is always a good idea. The Johnson Drug Company in Aliceville, Alabama, certainly thought so. They were promoting Hollingsworth’s candy as the ideal gift in this ad that ran in the Pickens County Herald on February 2, 1939.

If candy feels too clichéd or impersonal, the photo studio located on the 2nd floor of the Fairhope Pharmacy has a solution: a photograph of you! It’s the “gift only you can give,” according to their ad in the Fairhope Courier (February 6, 1941).

The Alabama Tribune ran a lengthy article on February 13, 1953, suggesting that gifts made of leather should replace traditional items like handkerchiefs and jewelry. The article advises us that “Nothing looks or feels quite as glamorous as a gift in leather.” Of course, leather gifts aren’t just for him. Leather jewelry is “just the thing to highlight her tweeds and cashmeres this spring.”

A romantic dinner is a tried and true way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to tackle a multicourse dinner party, the Muscle Shoals Advertiser has a complete menu for you. This article actually ran in multiple newspapers across the state in February of 1942 and, I suspect, many families sat down to a dinner of chicken loaf with mushroom sauce followed by St. Valentine’s Day Cake that year.

This nostalgic look at Valentine’s Day was brought to you by our historic newspaper database, If you’ve enjoyed seeing these ads and would like to spend more time reading the fascinating records of our past, visit any location of the Birmingham Public Library and ask for If you’re a resident of Birmingham and have library card, you can access it from home via our website.

Another great source for newspapers is the Chronicling America site from the Library of Congress. They have over 3,000 digitized newspapers from all over the country available completely free of charge.

Submitted by Mary Beth Newbill, Southern History Department, Central Library