Friday, March 26, 2021

Old Valentines, Out of Sync

My other half recently found a cache of valentines from first and second grade down in the basement, so I thought I'd post a few that were either good or bad examples of mid-20th century commercial art for children. They're probably from 1963 and 1964.

(There were at least 50 of them in the envelope, so I've saved you from most of the pain.)

First are the ones I liked the best:

Not surprisingly, these have elements of cartoon modern, so of course I like them. The surprising thing, to me, is that the vast majority of the valentines were not in what I think of as a cartoon modern style. They were instead in an early 20th century commercial vein from greeting cards of that era, if I had to label it.

I generally was not taken with the way that people (who were all white children, generally) were depicted on the pieces. These three were the ones I liked best:

The mailbox card reminds me of early reader books, with a valentine's message that's just a plain classic. The other two, while cute renderings, seem a little too romantic for kids, especially the second one.

But compared to the rest of these... they're fine. 

These are the bad and the truly odd, the ones that no one would even consider making (in an updated style) in recent decades:

Here we have the pyromaniac cat, the nuclear missile, the scary clown, and the only "nonwhite" person shown on any of the valentines, depicted with stereotypically broken English and costume.

The second set of the bad and odd isn't much better:


This one has an Asian-personified tea kettle and cup with pseudo-Chinese lettering, a boy hunting for a presumed girl's heart (ick), and a butcher with cleaver ready to chop his valentine into little pieces.

These valentines are out of sync with today's date (since it's late March), and many of them are out of sync a lot more than that. As part of the larger culture, they were teaching children things they likely still live with and express today.


Michael Leddy said...

Yikes, and yikes again. I like the pig, frog, and telephone best. I am weirded out by the intimacy of some of the sentiments. Didn’t kids pass out these cards to everyone in the class?

Daughter Number Three said...

They sure did. These all have the handwriting of the kids on the back.