Vinegar Valentine Postcards Included the World of American Football
The once popular issues are the Anti-Valentine’s Day cards
Valentine’s Day? Vinegar Valentine Postcards? Admittedly, kind of a reach.
Still, those were the first things I thought of when the idea of Valentine’s Day rolled around in my brain so you’re stuck with it.
What are Vinegar Valentines? Most people these days are unfamiliar with them. They were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s and most have long since died out around the time World War II ended. But essentially, they were the anti-Valentine’s Day card. These were cards and postcards that were meant to be insulting to specific individuals. And some of them were sports-related.
It is important to note that the ‘Vinegar Valentine’ name isn’t a specific brand or artist. Rather, that’s the type of card they were referred as. Sometimes, these types of cards could be part of a specific set. But the Vinegar Valentine name is a genre and not the actual name of a set of cards. Vinegar Valentine cards could be either greeting cards, postcards, or other generic types of cards.
I’ve got a few of these in my collection. While I haven’t seen a ton of baseball ones, there are quite a few that refer to the sport of football.
Early American football (the game we know it as today), of course, can be difficult to distinguish between earlier forms of domestic or international rugby. But given the dates of when most of these cards were issued as well as their domestic nature, we can safely identify them as American football cards.
A couple of the popular ones depict a football player that is not particularly skilled. One of the more common sets that includes sports is the 1907 Rose Company postcards set. This set includes cards featuring a football player as well as a fan.
The Rose Company name will sound familiar to baseball card collectors that dabble in pre-war postcards. The 1908-09 Rose Company Postcards set (classified as PC760) is one of the most famous baseball postcard issues and includes a ton of players. This is the same company that created that iconic set.
The one in the release that features the football player is not particularly vicious but it isn’t really kind, either:
Because you let your hair grow tall
You think that you can play foot ball,
But it takes more than hair and a foot-ball suit
To make you a player or substitute
A similar set was also produced by the R. Hill Company in 1906. I haven’t see evidence that the set was quite as large, but football was also a focal point in that release as well.
A different football player is described poorly in this one, too. Also titled ‘The Football Player’, this one pictures a rather odd-looking character and describes him as not so bright.
This card features a player kicking a ball and a sports insignia, combined with a knight, over to the right.
The poem reads:
Arrayed thus, his joy is complete
All he thinks is to be ‘an athlete’
And all of the knowledge
That he gains in college
Shows his brains have gone into his feet
It wasn’t only men that were targeted in these sorts of cards. Women, too, got their fair share of criticism.
That is seen in a 1905 set from the Illustrated Postcard Company of New York. These cards have a similar layout as the others with an image at the top and a poem at the bottoms.
Sometimes, the women were accused of being too manly. One depicts a woman called, ‘The Athletic Girl,” and features her playing all kinds of sports. The main image shows her as a golfer but she is also seen around the edges of the postcard participating in fencing, running, fencing, weightlifting, and, you guessed it, football. Specifically, the card targets her appearance:
She is husky and strong, stout of limb.
She’s ‘fast’ (on the run) ‘in the swim.’
To box and to fence
Are ‘simply immense,’
But her best friends could scarce call her slim.
A second postcard went after female football fans that were particularly fickle.
Of football she talks like a sport.
And rooting and cheering’s her forte.
Whichever side wins
She’s sure of “frat” pins,
For she’s really a very good sort.
Postcards are often a great type of pre-war card because they are so affordable. That’s the case here, too. Finding any of these postcards under $20 isn’t too uncommon.