Valentines & Letters Home
Saturday's DUV (Daughters of Union Veterans) got me thinking again how very precious were the letters sent home during the US Civil War. Now with military strife in Afghanistan and Iraq the methods may have changed, but the sentiments haven't. Where once the stub of a pencil and scarce bits of thin paper were used, the internet now expedites communication between servicemen and women and their families who keep the home fires burning.
Our guest speaker was Frank Crawford, author of My Dear Wife - The Civil War Letters of Private Samuel Pepper. Company G - 95th Illinois Infantry 1862 to
1865 and Proud to Say I am a Union Soldier: The Last Letters Home from Federal Soldiers Written During the Civil War,
1861-1865. You can read excerpts from the first book of 140 (yes 140!) letters Samuel Pepper sent to his wife and children at Jayne McCormick's website:
In addition to our tears, our reaction was to believe that Samuel Pepper was perhaps quite educated owing to the flowery language of his letters to his family. However, the transcriber Frank, being a retired secondary education instructor and a CW buff to say the least, offered a differing opinion. He feels that while spelling and penmanship were challenges for our CW servicemen, the typical vocabulary from that time period was more extensive than the often mono-syllabic practice of today's youth.
Few of us have more than a scrap or two with a line penned by an ancestor. I have a tiny (2x3 inch) child's book of poetry which belonged to my maternal grandmother Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell. The front piece is inscribed "Love from Daddy." The beautifully penned sentiment speak volumes to my soul. I clearly recognize similarities between great-grandfather Charles Henry Goering's handwriting and that of both his daughter and granddaughter (my mother). I guess the neat penmanship skipped my generation?
Perhaps you've discovered some of your grandparent's old valentines in the bottom drawer of the desk. How fortunate you are! I merely collect circa 1900-1905 Valentine postcards from EBay auctions, because I enjoy the delightful colors and find the illustrations wonderfully detailed.
The History Channel reports that "In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America."
This morning I received an humorous electronic Valentine from my sister out west. How marvelous the internet is for shortening the 3,000 mile distance. I had previously used BlueMountain's "scheduled delivery" option to send my Valentine's Day wishes to each of my four grandchildren. The older ones have come to expect "electronic" greeting cards from this Gramma. 5-year-old Aubrey, who was recently sick, just "knew" I would have an e-card waiting for her in her mothers email box. I found an online card with a big green flu bug. I asked her to print out the card, scribble on it, wad it up and throw it in the waste basket to get rid of the flu in her system.
Normally Aubrey's mom prints out each card and inserts it in the notebook I sent for storing these official grandparent-grandchild communiqués. I noticed while visiting the homes of all my grandchildren this past year that they enjoy turning the pages of these notebooks to "read" what Gramma has sent once again. Yes, DearREADERS, everything is encased in top-loading sheet protectors, so these tiny hands can point and drip all they want. I hope by the sheer volume of greetings, that these pages will remind my precious grandchildren just how much they are loved.
Whatever method you choose, let's keep those lines of communication open with family members both near and far. If you want to venture out into the online greeting card world see:
American Greetings http://www1.americangreetings.com
For Further Reading:
History Channel - Valentine's Day http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine
Happy family tree climbing!
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