A collection of Victorian Valentine cards from MMU’s Special Collections reveal that very little has changed between the sexes over the past 100 years.
The Laura Seddon collection of 450 cards dating from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries show that not only did the Victorians have a sense of humour, they shared the same relationship ups-and-downs as British couples do a century later.
Comical to crude
A selection of cards from the 1850s show images of domestic bliss with the ‘Master’ of the house helping in the kitchen and rocking a baby, whilst others include a poem about a lovers’ bad breath and a card for gardening lovers using comical fruit and vegetable references.
Another even features a ‘ladder of matrimony’, highlighting flirtation, declaration, preparation and celebration on the way up and irritation, altercation, desperation and separation on the way down.
Poking fun at Victorian values
Jayne Burgess, Special Collections Manager, says: “Contrary to popular belief, the Victorians weren’t as stuffy or prudish as we think. In fact they had a wicked sense of humour and many of the cards poke fun at what we now think of as stereotypical Victorian roles and values.
“There are some unexpectedly comic cards and some that are very offensive to the unlucky recipient, warning people about being left of the shelf or not being attractive enough to marry. They’ll make some people feel glad they are single!”
An exhibition of Victorian Valentine cards is currently on display on the ground floor of MMU’s Sir Kenneth Green Library on the All Saints Campus until 26 February 2010.
The library is open Monday to Thursday 8.45am-11.30pm, Friday 8.45am-6pm, Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 12-11.30pm.
Valentine cards facts:
• Paper Valentine cards were originally elaborate and handmade using lace paper, scraps, flowers and ribbon
• Commercial manufacture of Valentine cards made with fine embossed and lace paper began in the 1800s
• In 1835 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post, despite postage being expensive
• With cheaper production costs in the mid-1800s came comic cards, some rude and vulgar, alongside the elegant lacy confections
• Early humour included mock documentary cards in the form of marriage certificates, telegrams, summons and banknotes
Manchester Metropolitan University is a leading university for the professions and a powerful driver of the North West economy.
The University educates and trains large numbers of the region’s legal and business professionals, scientists, engineers, teachers, health workers and creative professionals. It enjoys an excellent reputation for teaching and applied research and is a recognised innovator in partnership working with its local communities. The University is currently investing almost £300 million in its estate and facilities.
Added today: How to save the British high street Retail project’s plans to help 10 UK towns
Added yesterday: Engineers' best finish in racing car design final MMU team build new vehicle for Formula Student series
Added yesterday: Concept artist Ryan Gander 'crowned' 'Go out and be Imagine-ers!'
Added yesterday: School of Art "Best in Show" at Tatton Staff and students return to prestigious show
Added yesterday: Esther Rantzen honoured for protecting UK's children TV Celebrity becomes Honorary Doctor of Letters
Follow @manmetuni on Twitter for the latest news from MMU.