Victorian-era Valentine’s Day cards are surfacing online—and they’re super weird

When most of us think of Valentine’s Day cards, we picture saccharine-sweet greetings of “won’t you be mine,” and “roses are red, violets are blue.” But apparently, Valentine’s cards that express admiration for your paramour are a relatively new phenomenon.

Just in time for the holiday, Victorian Studies PhD student Rosie White pulled back the curtain to reveal what some of the first Valentine’s Day cards looked like after the invention of the Penny Post in the United Kingdom. And while there were definitely plenty of traditional designs one might expect, featuring lovely bouquets of flowers and rosy-cheeked cherubs and the like, some were downright insulting.

“Prepare for a thread of cut-lace & ornately illustrated cards as well as cheaper comic valentines,” White tweeted, before going down the rabbit hole of Victorian-era cards.

However, as White went on to explain, Vinegar Valentines—on the other hand—were “cheaply made cards that usually featured an insulting rhyme or caricature.” And to literally add insult to injury, the recipient of the Valentine’s Day cards were responsible for the postage fee, meaning that people “often found themselves paying for the ‘privilege’ of being insulted by their ‘admirer.'”

Imagine being a spinster at 19! And of course, it seems like doubles standards have not changed whatsoever, give or take a couple of hundred years.

Oh, but these Valentine’s Day cards get even weirder. We’re talking ladies being dragged around by geese with human heads, weird. And ladies sinking their fangs into eligible bachelors by *checks notes* ensnaring them with their long, Rapunzel-like braids? Sure! Why not?

So for anyone out there having a crappy Valentine’s Day, just think! You could be receiving Valentine’s Day cards that tell you what a weird old loser you are! Nowadays, we just have social media to accomplish that, but on the upside at least you don’t have to pay for it?

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Stacey Ritzen

Stacey Ritzen

Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.