Sending Ugly Valentines

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, February 12, 1912:  Got my valentines in preparation. They’re all ugly ones. I thought one was most too much to send as it was rather mean looking. But I got it ready, so it has to go.

DON’T sit up nights admiring yourself.

The best that can be said of you

Is that you might pass in a crowd.

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

What could the valentine have possibly said that was almost too bad to send?  And, who was Grandma sending it to? . . . . .a classmate?. . . her teacher? . . . her sister?

For more old valentines see these previous posts:

Bought Some Vinegar Valentines

Valentines: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Anonymous Comic Valentines

Bought Some Vinegar Valentines

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, February 10, 1912:  I got some ugly valentines today. I had all the milking to do tonight and will have it for tomorrow morning. Our dear Ruthie is spending the time with Tweet.

Pride Goeth Before Fall

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

Tweet is the nickname of Helen Wesner. She was a friend of Grandma and her sister Ruth.

A hundred years ago people sometimes gave ugly valentines that were often called vinegar valentines. Who did Grandma plan to give them to?

To see more vinegar valentines see these posts from last year:

Valentines: The Good, the Bad, and the Horrid

Anonymous Comic Valentines

Anonymous Comic Valentines

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, February 15, 1911: I heard from two of the persons to whom I sent comic valentines. I don’t think they suspected me in the least. We had final examinations in Physical Geography. I think I will make a good mark. I got a ride home from school this evening. It was with such a cute boy. (I didn’t know him though.) He asked me, “would I accept a ride”, and I certainly did. We talked chiefly about the weather and the snow. The name of his horse was Grace for that was what he called her.

Comic Vinegar Valentine, circa 1911

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

I found several comic valentines—sometimes called vinegar valentines—at flea markets and on Ebay. None included a message–each just contained the recipient’s name and address.

On a different topic related to this post–I was very surprised that someone Grandma didn’t know would be on the road between McEwensville and the Muffly farm–and that she  would accept a ride from this stranger. Even in the ‘good old days’ I wouldn’t have thought that this would have been considered  a safe thing to do in rural Pennsylvania–but apparently there was so little crime that it wasn’t a concern.  

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