February 14, 2023

Editor’s Staff

Vinegar Valentine Sampler

Have you ever met a mean or nasty postcard collector? I haven’t! (Well, maybe once.) So, if you are a totally kind individual, as most postcard collectors are, you should read this article, but please don’t take anything to heart, none of these are addressed to you.

The topic of Vinegar Valentines is popular and several Internet sites have devoted pages to the history of the genre. Claims that vinegar valentines date back to the 1840s suggest that it was then that secret haters would send their victims messages so nasty that they would make people cry.

When postcard senders took up the practice of mailing vinegar valentines, the cards were mostly a British and American phenomenon.

Most of the vinegar cards showcase an unflattering illustration and a two, three, or four line “poem” that described the recipient and what should become of them. Such nasty lines as:

            To the Coquette, “… your goo goo eyes don’t fool me now, We know you’ll never marry” or to the Singer, “That voice of yours is very bad, You’ll never learn to sing.”

            To the Poet, “You tell of your feelings in every poem, But what we think is that you’re in need of a good square meal.”

            To your Chauffeur, “As a chauffeur you can hardly run a car; but as a grafter, you’re a star.

The insults keep coming, for they are anonymous and say things that the sender would never think to utter to someone’s face. Who says, “The world today is a nasty place!” It seems that it’s been so for a long time.

Even though Vinegar Valentines are often cruel and mean they are still fun to collect. Postcard History presents the following checklists for the six most popular and easiest to collect series. ONE CAVEAT: these list are not guaranteed – they may be incomplete and the titles may reflect many inaccuracies, but they will provide you with enough information to begin a significate collection. More than 150 cards are listed.

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Vinegar Valentines by The Rose Company

An Artist
Bald Head
Bum Actor
Fat Man
Fat Woman
Lovesick Lover
Miss Nosey
Old Rooster

School Marm
Society Cook
The College Girl
The Poet
The Quack
The Social Belle
Wallpaper Hanger

Vinegar Valentines with Black Borders (by Aurocrome. Signed, Myer)

Car Seat Hog
Paper Hanger
The Autoist
The Amateur Cook
The Baker
The Bum Artist
The Coquette
The College Girl
The Fat Fellow
The Golfer
The Inventor

The Large Footed Girl
The Lazy Man
The Milk Man
The Old Girl
 The Singer
The Stylish Girl
The Talker
The Walking Delegate
The Window Shopper
The Wrinkled Girl
Le Tord-Boyas*(Fat Man w/wine glass)

Illustrated Postcard Company (Eagle & Shield logo on address side.)

Old Maid
The Artist
The Athletic Girl
The Auto Fiend
The Boarding House Mistress
The Flirt
The Hot-headed Man
The Masher

The Overdressed Woman
The Poet
The College Girl
The Salesman
The Sportsman
The Typewriter
The Would-Be Athlete

The Stern Company (copyright 1906)

A Decolette Dame
A Poetical Poseur
A Question of Taste
The College Professor
The Doctor
The Manicurist

The Old Maid
The Much Married Man
The Summer Girl
The Telephone Belle
The Typewriter Girl
The Young Bride

In the early twentieth century (circa 1906 and 1907) Tuck published nearly 600 postcards that were intended as “Valentines.” Much of the artwork was done by G. W. Bonte and other “regulars” from their in-house art department. The “love characters” ranged from infants and angels to hat-pins and butterfly nets. In many cases the captions are “strained” humor, but it has been more than a century since their publication, so it may be that what was funny then, is no more. Three of the Valentines sets go far beyond their routine standard of six-card sets. Those three were twenty-four card sets of Valentine Greetings that fit the definition of “vinegar” cards. They were numbered and titled as follows:

Valentine Greetings Series #5 (1905) Example above, The Militiaman.
Sold in the United States and Canada in 24-card sets.

Valentine Greetings Series #6 (1906) Example above, Lovesick Maid.
Sold in the United States and Canada in 24-card sets.

Valentine Greetings Series #7 (1907) Set features career characters, example above, “Fireman.” Sold in the United States and Canada. Character titles follow:

Postal Worker

Dress Maker
Drug Clerk

Telephone Operator
Traveling Salesman
Head Cook
Tree (of the Blacksmith)

Horse Jockey

Valentine Comic Series No. 1  (Unknown Publisher, Copyright 1906)

Boss of the House
Close Fist
Cornet Player
Haughty Maiden
Henpecked Husband
The Cigarette Fiend

The Fat Man
The Hypocrite
The Lovesick Girl
The Masher
The Saleslady
The Shiftless Man
The Tobacco Chewer

The example above (left) is from an unknown publisher, but it is numbered as set 2285. It has a divided back and comes from a set with 10 designs. The “POST CARD” is stylized with a quill.

The example above (right) is from Whitney Publishing of Worcester, Massachusetts. It has an undivided back. There are twelve in the set.

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So in the end it’s love, no matter what, love is what vinegar valentines are all about. The sender may think the Vin-Val is “getting even” or “revenge” for a deed best forgotten, but if there was no love, accept your fate and find a date. Perhaps the School Marm or the College Professor is available.

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“Masher” is one of those great old words that has sadly fallen from common usage.

I think this is very good and interesting. So much has been lost to the passage of time.

I haven’t seen many of these. Great article.

Enjoyed the “Vinegar Valentines” article! We have some of them in our retail stock. Now, I know more about them. Thanks!
The Toronto Postcard Show is February 26th, 2023 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, 6 Garamond Court, Toronto M3C 1Z5. It is located off the Don Valley Parkway at Eglington Avenue East, opposite Aga Khan Park. There will be 30+ tables of vintage postcards for sale. Admission $7 Free parking For more information visit http://www.torontopostcardclub.com

I would love to have a copy of the “Vinegar Valentines” article. I have many of them in my postcard collection of Whitney cards. Box 514, Blenheim, Ontario N0P 1A0 Canada

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