A Weirder Side of Valentine’s Day.
We think of Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate love. But, hate and love are two sides of a coin, so they say. In the past, people sent “Vinegar Valentines” to people who had hurt or scorned them or people they just did not like. It reminds me of the joke in the 1980s of sending dead roses or chocolate covered cat poop.
A sad commentary on humanity, I find it really interesting that there were trolls even before the internet.
According to an article at Wikipedia:
These cynical, sarcastic, often mean-spirited greeting cards were first produced in America as early as the 1840s by a variety of printing companies, including Elton, Fisher, Strong and Turner. By the 1870s, other entrepreneurs such as New York printer, John McLoughlin, and his cartoonist, Charles Howard were creating their own lines of cards. While different European companies also produced the humorous cards in the early 19th century, one of the most prestigious firms to create them around 1900 was Raphael Tuck & Sons, “Publishers to Their Majesties the King and Queen of England.”
Cheaply made, vinegar valentines were usually printed on one side of a single sheet of paper and cost only a penny. Some people[who?] mistakenly call them penny dreadfuls, although that term in fact refers to a form of potboiler fiction. They often featured garish caricatures of men like the “Dude” or women like the “Floozy.” One reason they rapidly became popular throughout America and Europe was because literacy rates were increasing at that time among the poor and working classes who rarely had much more than a penny to spend on such luxuries. But, according to noted valentine authority Nancy Rosin, vice-president of the National Valentine Collectors Association, their use wasn’t restricted to the lower economic classes.
The unflattering cards reportedly created a stir throughout all social levels, sometimes provoking fistfights and arguments. Ironically, the receiver, not the sender, was responsible for the cost of postage up until the 1840s. A person in those days paid for the privilege of being insulted by an often anonymous “admirer.” Millions of vinegar valentines, with verses that insulted a person’s looks, intelligence, or occupation, were sold between the 19th and 20th centuries.
The cards are usually simply a sheet of thin, colored paper, about the size of a modern greeting card. They were later also produced in the form of postcards. They were usually sent anonymously. Postmasters sometimes confiscated these cards as unfit to be mailed.
Now I would never have to guts to send one, but that isn’t to say I haven’t felt the urge. Maybe to a mean girl or an old boyfriend. Haven’t we all? I’ve found it never makes me feel any better. But I happen to have two such cards which I think are more on the “I’ve been hurt” side of the coin than the “I hope this hurts” side.
Here are some I have found online — I think the man in the top hat and the snake are more like the “You hurt me” type. The article in wikipedia doesn’t mention these, but it seems to me they existed:
Let’s hope we never get one of these or send one. Would you want to?