Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sour Puss

Valentine’s Day is usually associated with giving small tokens of affection to a loved one or friend, most often in the form of a card and often said with chocolate. The tradition of bestowing tokens of affection to one’s love interest is centuries old. Before the mass production of cheaply manufactured cards in the early 1800s, that token was often a hand-written note or poem. The earliest surviving example of a valentine dates to the 15th century.

Sorry. Not the scandalous one
However, it was during the Victorian period that commercially making and then sending a valentine card really took off. The availability of cheap paper, relatively inexpensive postage, and newer printing techniques allowed for this explosion of card sending. Mailing a valentine granted anonymity to the sender and some of the cards were very racy for the time period. One card from the period allows the recipient to raise the cover’s crinoline and reveal a scandalous red-stockinged ankle.

There is one tradition of the valentine from the Victorian era that might seem surprising today—and one that there are times some of us might have wished for still—and that is the “vinegar valentine.” The vinegar valentine finally seemed to die away by 1940.

Definitely not politically correct

These valentines were also a product of the anonymity of the post and were often very vulgar and in some cases downright cruel. While looking for these images, I even found one that someone wrote up for an Army surgeon during the Civil War. 

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