Are you less than thrilled at all the lovey-doveyness of Valentine’s day with its saccharin commercialism? I’ve gone a few Anti-Valentine’s Day parties in my day. Well for all of you I have a treat for you too:
This type of postcard is called a vinegar valentine – for its sour sentiments expressed. They were popular from the 1840s to 1940s. I read one account that estimates that half of valentines sent back then was of the vinegar flavour. According to an expert on vinegar valentines, Annebella Pollen, these cards were sent anonymously to people that were disliked or to send a message. As Pollen relates:
There were so many different kinds. You could send them to your neighbors, friends, or enemies. You could send them to your schoolteacher, your boss, or people whose advances you wanted to dismiss. You could send them to people you thought were too ugly or fat, who drank too much, or people acting above their station. There was a card for pretty much every social ailment….
I suppose they could be considered a form of bullying, at least in their most extreme forms. A lot of them are quite playful and cheeky, though. Most are kind of a fond dig in the ribs. Some of the more playful ones I saw might depict, for example, a father discovering a couple canoodling behind the rose bush and pouring cold water out of a watering can on them. That’s similar to the gentle humor you would find in an early silent film. So some show the age-old scenarios that are slightly risqué humorously delivered, rather than telling somebody they’re stupid and that no one will ever want to marry them.
This Valentine vinegar was unsent. Most of the ones that were sent to people were not saved due to their often nasty nature.
But if you ever thought that the Internet brought out the trolls and bullies in humans, these traits have a long history in humanity. I find it fascinating that people used a holiday devoted love to expose their dark side. Read the full interview with Annebella Pollen for a great history of vinegar valentines.