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Photos of Weird Victorian Couples to Ruin Your Valentine’s Day

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Two couples pose in a novelty photo in San Francisco, ca. 1900.
Victorian couples living it up like only Victorians could. (Kirn Vintage Stock/ Corbis via Getty Images)

Ah, love. Eternal. Binding. Great when you’re in it. Often supremely irritating to look at when you’re not. If you find yourself lacking relationship inspiration as we approach this year’s Valentine’s Day, please consider this a heart-shaped candy box from us to you. Ten couples from San Francisco history who just can’t help but remind us that relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Please now gaze upon their perplexed, dejected faces and imagine the stilted conversations that occurred before and after these portraits were taken. May they stand as a reminder that sometimes, being alone is better than being saddled with someone else…

Up first! Look at this duo from 1890. Gaze deep into their eyes and ponder the souls within. An abyss of darkness.

A Victorian era couple pose in a studio, she sitting, he standing. They both look confused and perhaps a little angry.
‘You talkin’ to us? You talkin’ to us?! Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? We’re the only ones here…’ etc. (OpenSFHistory / wnp37.02417)

Ah, to be visiting the Cliff House with this cheery couple from 1900.

A Victorian woman in a hat and a large man in a suit pose on a bench in front of an image of the Cliff House in San Francisco.
‘The thing that really drew me to Malcolm was that really special way he does his jackets up.’ (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.0172)

Then there are these two from 1900, in the middle of paying a visit to the Haight Street Chutes (a giant waterslide, ridden in a flat-bottomed boat that existed between 1895 and 1902). What a barrel of laughs they’re having!

A man and a woman sit very straight-faced in front of an image depicting a giant water slide.
Fairly certain that Amanda Knox is a reincarnation of this woman. (OpenSFHistory / wnp27.7774)

Our next couple is clearly having the time of their lives, yes, but look where they’re doing it — all over the rubble of the 1906 earthquake. Like raging, fork-stealing psychopaths.

A Victorian couple gazes at each other and smiles while walking across piles of bricks and ruins.
‘Babe, you’re so damn sexy that when I’m with you it feels, like, totally fine to dance on the rubble of other people’s hopes and dreams.’ ‘Same, Arnold. Same.’ (OpenSFHistory / wnp37.01299)

I don’t want to make groundless accusations or anything but these two look like they’ve got a body hidden in their basement.

A Victorian couple stands on the side of a road.
This was taken on the Great Highway circa 1910 — an excellent location to plot an escape strategy. Coincidence? (OpenSFHistory / wnp14.11172)

Don’t have a date this year? Please find comfort in this super-awkward double date that took place at the Premium Postal Studio at 1311 Fillmore Street in the 1910s.

Two men and two women stand within a prop cutout that resembles a hot air balloon.
This whole thing was masterminded by the guy on the left. You can just tell. (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.1005)

These two are basically just in training for the haunting they’re going to do after they’ve crashed that car into the side of the house.

A Victorian couple sitting in an early automobile outside a large house.
Here we see a couple outside the McLaren Lodge on Stanyan Street in the 1910s. Ten bucks says they’re still there. (OpenSFHistory / wnp37.03219)

The photographer for this one really captured the unfiltered joy and unabashed closeness of this couple, didn’t he? Perfection!

A man and a woman pose inside a prop car in a photo studio. Turn of the century.
I don’t know. Something about it just screams ‘I make her walk behind me in the street.’ (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.0174)

Look. Victorian mourning garb was weird and all, but letting anyone leave the house with half an emu on their head is just downright cruel and unusual. Bad husbanding, bro.

A Victorian couple sits in front of an image of San Francisco's Cliff House.
‘What’s the secret to a good marriage? Being really, really into unfathomable hats.’ (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.0977)

Finally, there’s this wild and wacky couple from 1911. Bob’s letting his lady friend sit at the wheel of the car, sure, but you can practically hear the sound of his ego breaking under the weight of it. Clench that jaw a little tighter, my man!

A man and woman pose inside a car in front of a backdrop featuring San Francisco’s Cliff House.
‘Our marriage was in real trouble for a while, but now, every two weeks or so, I let Meredith pretend-drive this prop car. Really gives her a sense of independence, you know?’ (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.1012)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May you ignore everything that just happened and go find a wooden rendition of a donkey to have a cuddle on — just like these cutie pies.

A 1920s-era couple sits on a prop donkey in front of a backdrop of San Francisco's cliff house.
Relationship goals. (OpenSFHistory / wnp70.1026)


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