NPR logo A Scandalous, Victorian Valentine's Day

Smithsonian: Behind The Scenes

A Scandalous, Victorian Valentine's Day

Although they seem sweet to us today, these scenes might have caused a stir in the 1800s. Shannon Perich, associate curator of Smithsonian's Photographic History Collection, sent over these old stereo cards from the 1880s and 1890s that, she writes, "speak to kisses, romance and getting a peek at ladies underthings."

Traditionally, they would be seen through a stereo viewer; but you can get the 3-D effect by crossing your eyes. Other than the sparse (and rather humorous) caption information, there is no telling what's going on in these pictures.

"Oh! You naughty man!" Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"Oh! You naughty man!"

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"Alone at Last" Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"Alone at Last"

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"1927 — There is no rose without a thorn." Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"1927 — There is no rose without a thorn."

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"The 'Surprise'" Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

"The 'Surprise'"

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
Victorian stereo card
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution
Vintage stereo card
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution