This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 09 January, 2010.
omic Valentines," as they appear in the tradesman's stocklists, were more familiarly (and more honestly) known as "Penny Dreadfuls." They were always the subject of scorn—no "nice" person would ever send one!—but, somehow...many, many were sent, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th Century. All states of life, professions, and personal traits were catered for: fat; skinny; ugly; conceited; old maid; rake; kill-joy; drunkard. As Comic Valentines go, this military example is quite harmless: a large percentage plumb the lower depths of cruelty, and some are quite obscene. These items were produced by the lowest end of the printer's market and show it: the engravings are crude, the coloring—if present—slapdash; type can be broken and the inking hit-and-miss. The intended purchasers were the poor; young adults (urban domestics and apprentices, primarily); and the just plain ornery. In cities they would have been purchased at tobacconists, low-end stationers, and from street sellers in the run-up to Saint Valentine's Day; in better establishments, there was probably a selection kept under the counter to exhibit if called for. In more rural areas, general stores would have ordered a packet from their printer or jobber to meet the February demand; they were also carried by itinerants.
The original artifact from which this was reproduced reflected the rough printing sold on the lower end of the market. The engraving itself is below what would find in Harper's Weekly, which reflected the intended market.