The Curious Tradition of Valentine's Day Hate Mail

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Want something to give for Valentine’s Day that’s not so syrupy sweet? Look no further than vinegar valentines.

Around 1840 or 1850, vinegar valentines or “penny dreadfuls” became a popular way to burn that special someone in your life. At one point, they accounted for more than half of the Valentine’s Day card sales.

“Oh look,” the not-so-lucky recipient would think when a pretty little envelope showed up in the mail, “Someone loves me!” Then they’d open the envelope and find a crude caricature and/or biting poem that was just a touch too mean to be lovingly poking fun. Some of them were even designed for specific professions, so you could anonymously crush your grocer’s spirit or zing your surgeon (which seems like a terrible idea).

The trend died out sometime in the early 20th century, but if you think Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to insult someone, you can find plenty of the vintage cards on eBay or Etsy.

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February 12, 2013 - 8:30pm
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