The Vinegar Valentines in the Victorian Era

Scarlett Osborne

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Are you lovebirds getting ready for Valentine’s day?

In the late 19th century, Valentine’s Day was more than an opportunity to express love to their mate by sending cards or gifts.

It was also the day to express their frustration, bitterness or even hatred to those who did not love them. And there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the Vinegar Valentine.

The Vinegar Valentines were postcards designed with caricatures and satirical images intended to mock or even annoy the recipient. They were sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who hated him or her and, as if this weren’t bruising enough, the recipient paid the postage on delivery. Can you imagine that?

They were available in stores from America to Europe and starred next to beautiful Valentine’s Day cards with hearts and flowers. Commonly sold at a cost of only a penny each, they were very popular among the poor and working classes. However, the upper class was just as eager, if not more so, to insult their acquaintances via the use of such cards.

Back then, they were called mocking, insulting, or comic valentinesvinegar seems to be a modern description.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dears, keep reading! 😉

First Appearance

The tradition began in America around the 1840s and had been going on for an entire century.

Vinegar Valentines was once a booming business. They accounted for 50% of the cards sold each year on Valentine’s Day. These cards featured an illustration and a short line or poem that, rather than offering messages of love and affection, insulted the recipient.

The cards were also used as a means to communicate hatred and frustration towards neighbors, enemies or even friends, and not just unrequited love. The design of the cards was based on cheap materials, so their low cost allowed everyone to express their feelings.

People’s Reaction

These nasty cards were sometimes crass, always funny, and definitely mean. Anyone who received one of these surely got the point.

Even by Victorian standards, Vinegar Valentines were considered distasteful, vulgar and morally depraving.

Some did not hesitate to accuse card makers of inciting anti-social behavior and encouraging hatred.

Others complained that the value of Valentine’s Day was waning.

Modern Years

There have been a few cases of overreacting to receiving these cards. People have committed suicides or homicides, as a result of receiving one! Not a strange phenomenon as there were cards that suggested or urged the reader to commit suicide. And many of them were written as though these negative thoughts were popular opinion.

In 1885, London’s Pall Mall Gazette reported that a husband shot his wife in the neck after receiving a vinegar valentine from her. Oh my!

This trend has gradually declined; the year 1940 was the last time Valentine’s Day hate cards were exchanged. Surviving examples of actual Vinegar Valentines are scarce. For obvious reasons, recipients did not keep them. 

Well, dearie, your husband didn’t get you the gift you wanted? Think that it could be worse like the message below! 😉

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

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