Vinegar Valentine, circa 1900 / Public Domain
Vinegar valentines were a type of insulting cards. They are decorated with a caricature, and featured below an insulting poem. Ostensibly given on Valentine’s Day, the caricature and poem is about the « type » that the recipient belongs to—spinster, floozy, dude, scholar, etc. They enjoyed popularity from the 1840s to the 1940s. These cynical, sarcastic, often mean-spirited greeting cards were first produced in America as early as the 1840s. Cheaply made, vinegar valentines were usually printed on one side of a single sheet of paper and cost only a penny.
The unflattering cards reportedly created a stir throughout all social levels, sometimes provoking fisticuffs 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…
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