Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet & Nasty Valentines

"Grandma" sent this sweet Valentine postcard to "Stella" back in 1910.
Valentines haven't changed all that much in the past 100 years. Sweethearts still give one another love tokens. And kids still exchange paper valentines (although they're printed more often than homemade these days) and those ubiquitous pink boxes of candy hearts. 

Would you believe that NECCO, the New England Confectionery Company, started producing those tiny "conversation hearts" back in 1902 and that their popularity has never waned — although some original sayings, such as Oh Boy and Kiss Me, have been replaced by such au courant sayings as Jump 4 Me and U Can Do It. 

One turn-of-the-century Valentine fad that, thankfully, ended was sending "vinegar valentines." Also called "penny dreadfuls," these valentines featured an illustration of one individual each — say a piano teacher, "lovesick lass" or "silly singer" — accompanied by a nasty verse that insulted the recipient. Supposedly, the cards were often sent anonymously and post office clerks refused to accept some of them because of their vulgarity.

Here's one example of a not-terribly-insulting vinegar valentine:

To the Stylish Girl:
Paris hats become you greatly,
Richest cloaks you'll never lack;
They are sent home on approval,
Worn one night and then sent back.

Happy Valentine's Day from AttaGirl, circa 1900. May all of your valentines be sweet.

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