Mention Valentine cards and images of cupids, roses, hearts, and paper lace come to mind. But from the 1840s into the early twentieth century, Valentine's Day was also THE occasion to send insulting and downright nasty cards, not just romantic ones. Comic valentines, also known as "penny dreadfuls" or "vinegar Valentines," made up about half the market for Valentine cards. Compared to sentimental valentines, they were amazingly cheap and could be found in variations to suit just about every circumstance. Your looks, your profession, your personal habits, your age, your marital status-everything was fair game for ridicule. Courtesy of the U.S. mail, senders could use these derogatory cards to anonymously mock, malign, and generally mistreat anyone who'd ticked them off since last Valentine's Day.
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