Valentines: The Good, the Bad, and the Horrid

15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:

Tuesday, February 14, 1911. I guess that a good many people know that the fourteenth of February is St. Valentine’s day. I expected at least one beautiful valentine, but like some fools I was disappointed, but I didn’t get any ugly ones either. I don’t think I would have felt very much honored to be the recipient of one, but I was not the receiver of any. I however, was the sender of four horrid ones. I also sent some pretty ones too.

St. Valentine’s day is here once more

To pierce some tender heart to the core

But if Dan Cupid with you can’t make a hit.

He’ll turn over and to some easier one flit.

Vinegar valentine, circa 1911
Pretty valentine, circa 1911


Pretty valentine when folded

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

A hundred years ago Valentine cards weren’t like the cards that we have now.  Ethel Spencer, in her memoir about growing up in Pittsburgh, described the valentines that were sent in the early part of the 20th century:

The valentines of our youth were far more interesting than the present-day variety. Most of them were pretty, and many of them did unexpected things when one opened them: a fan of bright-colored paper appeared; a cupid rose up to great us; a bunch of flowers popped out of a box. There were some ugly valentines too, notably paper broadsides with vulgar pictures and rhymes on them that though obtainable at Fatty Schwarz’s little store on Ellsworth Avenue, were forbidden to us.

Ethel Spencer in The Spencers of Amberson Avenue: A Turn of the Century Memoir


8 thoughts on “Valentines: The Good, the Bad, and the Horrid

  1. Vinegar Valentine, that’s a new one to me. I have seen older cards made with the “honeycomb” that opens up like on the red one.

      1. Now that you mention it, I remember those, too. I got an Easter card (a long time ago) with an “egg” inside that folded up. That was a “WOW” moment.

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