The Least Romantic Valentine's Day in Human History

February 11, 2011

Every year on February 14, couples around the world celebrate their love with flowers, chocolates, and expensive dinners. Though the world is awash with love and affection, throughout history some Valentine’s Days have been anything but romantic.

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10. Dolly the Sheep Dies - February 14, 2003

Photo: Llull

The birth of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, took the world by storm, but she left it on the day of lovers. She was undeniably the most famous sheep in the world and her death in 2003 saddened the world. Dolly, who was named in honor of Dolly Parton, was euthanized at the tender age of six after suffering debilitating arthritis and sheep lung cancer. Why her keepers chose Valentine’s Day to end her life is unknown, but it was definitely a slap in the face to romance and the perfect excuse to cancel Valentine’s Day that year.

Dolly left behind six offspring and her body is now on display at the Museum of Scotland. While most sheep of her variety have a life expectancy of 11 – 12 years, some argue Dolly’s life expectancy was shorter because she was a clone. So in honor of Dolly, let’s stay clear of lamb this Valentine’s Day. Go for a steak instead.


9. Congress Approves Voting Machines - February 14, 1899

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At the turn of the prior century the U.S. Congress ushered in a piece of legislation that would change the way Americans voted. On February 14, 1899 a new law was passed that allowed for the use of voting machines in federal elections. This paved the way for punch cards, levers, and electronic voting machines.

Fast forward more than 100 years (and a few thousand hanging chads later) and this little law enacted on a day dedicated to romance almost unhinged the greatest democracy in the world.


8. Arizona is Founded - February 14, 1912

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The history of statehood is not a subject likely to get anyone in the mood for anything. Seriously, if a girl sexily whispers something in your ear like, “Let’s talk statehood, baby,” run a mile. So this Valentine’s Day ignore that some 99 years ago Arizona became a fully fledged state (and definitely don’t celebrate the anniversary of Oregon which coincidentally became a state on the same day in 1859). Don’t cancel your V day plans to celebrate that it was the 48th state admitted to the union and instead focus on your own union. The state of Arizona may have contributed the good (blonde ASU party girls) and the bad (law SB 1070), but celebrating its statehood is not worth forgoing the chocolates and sexy time.


7. Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray Both Lodge Patents for the Telephone - February 14, 1876

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While the telephone has long been the lover’s friend (could you imagine a long distance relationship without it?), the story of its invention is anything but civil. While Alexander Graham Bell has long been credited as the inventor of the telephone, the battle over who actually invented it came to a head on Valentine’s Day 1876. On that fateful day, inventors Elisha Gray and Bell both filed dueling patents for the invention of what would later become the name of a Lady Gaga and Beyonce song. By most accounts Gray lodged his application first, but Bell’s was hand delivered (because Bell’s lawyers had heard of Gray’s lodgment) and was filed before Gray’s.

Bell’s patent also contained seven hastily included lines concerning a water transmitter which were supposedly ripped from Gray’s patent. Years later it was discovered that the patent officer who finally sided with Bell’s patent had been in debt to Bell’s patent attorneys and had been paid a bribe of $100 to push the patent through. Bell went on to develop the commercial telephone and never used Gray’s liquid transmitter in public demonstrations or commercial use.


6. Element 103 is Discovered - February 14, 1961

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Nothing screams romance like a rare earth element, especially if that element has a half-life of approximately 3.6 hours. So hot, right?

In 1961 a group of scientists spent a very unromantic Valentine’s Day hunched around a Heavy Ion Linear Accelerator at the University of California’s Lawrence Radiation Center, wearing white lab coats and bombarding the heck out a three-milligram target consisting of three isotopes of the element californium with boron-10 and boron-11 nuclei. The result was Lawrencium. Now that's hot!

The element was named in honor of nuclear-physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, who invented the cyclotron particle accelerator. The elements symbol was originally Lw, however it was changed to Lr in 1997.


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5. St. Valentine's Day Massacre - February 14, 1929

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Two warring Chicago gangs, one led by notorious mobster Al Capone, came to a head on Valentine’s Day in 1929 and the fallout was bloody. As legend goes, Capone organized a group of men to ambush Bugs Moran and his North Side Irish gang. Two men, dressed as policemen, entered a warehouse where Moran and his henchmen where supposedly picking up a delivery of bootleg whiskey. They were joined by two other men and together unleashed a magnitude of bullets that killed all seven men in the warehouse. While it is unknown if Moran was a target of the shooting, he was actually not present at the warehouse when the massacre went down.

The massacre severely affected Capone, turning public opinion against him (up until this time he had a Robin Hood like appeal) as well as bringing him to the attention of the FBI who later nabbed him for tax evasion.

No one was ever brought to trial over the massacre.


4. Indian Airlines Flight 605 Crashes - February 14, 1990

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As Indian Airlines flight 605 approached Bangalore airport, it severely undershot the runway and crashed. The flight, which had departed from Bombay, was cleared for landing but descended well below the normal approach profile. It crashed into a golf course some 2,300 feet short and 200 feet to the right of the runway. On impact the plane rolled 80 feet before bouncing off the ground. It finally hit an embankment killing 92 people onboard. There were 54 survivors. The crash is one of the worst in Indian aviation history.

3. Stardust Fire - February 14, 1981

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Tragedy struck a small town in Dublin in the early hours of Valentine’s Day when a fire roared through a night club killing many early Valentine’s Day revelers and injuring many more. The fire at the Stardust, a popular nightclub located in Artane, killed 48 and injured 214 people. The fire first broke out in the roof of the club before quickly engulfing the club’s ceiling and taking out the lights. The plunge into darkness caused panic and a stampede towards exits. The tragedy of the fire was that many of the emergency exits where locked or chained shut. Some patrons mistook the bathroom as the club’s exit and were trapped.


2. Northern Illinois University Shooting - February 14, 2008

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Northern Illinois University (NIU) was rocked to its very core when a 27-year-old former student entered a packed auditorium at 3:05pm during an oceanography lecture and unloaded more than 40 rounds of ammunition. Six people died, including the gunman, and 21 people were injured in the fourth deadliest university shooting in US history.

Little is known about why Steven Kazmierczak decided to enter Cole Hall and unleash numerous rounds of bullets.  He was seemingly a “fairly normal” person who had received the Dean’s award when he graduated from NIU in 2006. Kazmierczak did have a history of mental illness and had ceased taking his medication prior to the shooting. It is thought he may have been inspired by the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred less than a year earlier.


1. Strasbourg Pogrom- February 14, 1349

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The mass killing of Jews in Strasbourg in 1349 is one of the earliest and most shocking examples of genocide in pre-modern history. At the time, medieval Europe was awash with anti-Semitism, partly because many blamed the Jews for spreading the Black Plague.

In Strasbourg this was coupled with a tradesmen guild dispute and a belief that Jews wielded too much local power. This led to the pogrom of February 14, 1349. On that day over 200 Jews were rounded up and killed. Strasbourg’s Jewish neighborhood was destroyed and the rest of the Jewish population was forced out of town.


All this tragedy, heartbreak and boredom aside, go out and enjoy love and remember that everyday life can be a lot less romantic.



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