Tag Archives: valentinesday

Crazies in Love: A Valentine’s Open House

Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Amy McDonald, amy.mcdonald@duke.edu

Dearest readers and friends, we long to see you on Valentine’s Day. Won’t you please set our hearts a-flutter and come to our Valentine’s Day open house?

Do you fear that you will be too busy penning epistles of undying love to your own beloveds to join us? Ah, but this event is crafted especially for you: we’ll be sharing the most swoon-worthy of love declarations from the Rubenstein Library’s collections, so you may find just the term of endearment you need to woo your mate.

Perhaps a few examples to help the time pass more swiftly until we meet?

We’re charmed by the simplicity of this short note from the scrapbook of Odessa Massey, Class of 1928:

Note from Odessa Massey's scrapbook
From the Odessa Massey Scrapbook, 1924-1928.

Or the more expressive route taken by Francis Warrington Dawson—writing to Sarah Morgan, his future wife–is always sure to succeed:

Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Dawson Family Papers.
Letter from Francis Warrington Dawson to Sarah Morgan, February 10, 1873. From the Francis Warrrington Dawson Family Papers.

“How deeply should I thank God that he has allowed me to know you, which is to love you, for the sun now has a brighter light & the sky a deeper blue. The whole world seems truer & better, & this pilgrim, instead of lingering in the depths, is breasting the healthy difficulties of existence, with his eyes fast fixed on you. Whatever else may fail, believe always in this devoted & unselfish love of Francis Warrington Dawson!”

Or whose heart wouldn’t melt upon receiving this most adorable valentine, from our Postcard Collection:

Valetine, undated. From the Postcard Collection.
Valentine postcard, undated. From the Postcard Collection.

And there might even be tips on how to present yourself when you present your valentine!

Barbasol advetisement, 1944.
Barbasol advetisement, 1944. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adaccess_BH0643/


Have we convinced you yet? What if we mention that there will be chocolate and candy?

Until next Thursday,

Your Rubenstein librarians

Fortunes Told at the Rubenstein

Did Valentine’s Day leave you with more questions than answers? Wondering who sent you that sweet Valentine? Want to know when you’ll meet your own Rapturous Codfish? Perhaps Mother Shipton’s Gipsy Fortune Teller and Dream Book can be of help.

Shipton - Cover


Not which of your many admirers sent you that “love token?” Get your crow quill ready and try this spell on Friday:



You’ll have to wait until June to try this one – plenty of time to find a tobacco pipe full of pewter so you can augur your future husband’s career:
know your husband's trade


Did two pigeons fly around your and your darling’s heads this weekend? Or maybe a rabbit crossed your path on Saturday morning? Both good signs:
speedy marriage

But Mother Shipton thinks you should be careful if your love is the quiet mysterious type “given to musing and melancholy.”

signs to choose

Happy Valentine’s Day, My Rapturous Codfish!

Image of Leon Simon, taken from London's National Portrait Gallery.
Image of Leon Simon, taken from London’s National Portrait Gallery.

As my student assistant, Sophia Durand, began the physical processing of the 131 letters in the Leon Simon collection (1915-1916, 1918), she noticed something intriguing. Leon Simon addressed each letter to his future wife, Esther Ellen Umanski, differently. Until they made official plans to marry, she was “My Dear Nellie.” But once the date was set, Simon became creative and effusive, his word choices sometimes questionable as endearments.

Romantics everywhere tend to be sugary in their pet phrases. Simon was no different, perhaps just more over-the-top. He addressed his letters to: My essence of honeycomb, My exquisite Peach Melba, My lump of sweetness, My peachiest apricot, My succulent meringue, My belovedest mimosa, My jujubious confection, My sweet Sugar plum(p).

As you can already tell, Simon was quite fond of food and cooking. Other highlights in the letters include My stewed apricot, My eversweet parsnip, My most succulent kipper, My pickled herring (You know how I love them!), My pickledest onion (=on’y ‘n  =only one), My own dumpling, My coo (k) ing dove, My rapturous codfish, My toasted crumpet, and–my personal favorite–My incandescent soup-tureen.

Simon wrote Nellie at least once a week. On October 12, 1915, he called her “My protoplasmic cherub.”

Occasionally, Simon sought to be reassuring about his odd turns of phrase. On October 20, 1915, he wrote to Nellie, who was studying German, “My most exquisite Stumpfenbach, (Don’t worry about the meaning of this; it is a term of endearment invented for the occasion & means nothing at all except that all recognized terms of endearment are hopelessly inadequate)…” A Duke German professor says that he was unwittingly referring to a city in Bavaria.

So, if on this Valentine’s Day your terms of affection seem stale, why not borrow one coined by Simon: My adorable whelk, My kitchy-kooish boo-woo, My jokaceous blue bottle, My bilingual Scaramouche, My unique joy, My tender flamingo, My early paradise, My copious ink-pot, My imperative necessity, My darlingpetangelanddelightallrolledintoone. Perhaps you and your loved one will then share in one of his closings, a “Quintessence of hugs & kisses ad lib.”


Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original Cataloger.

Digitizing the LCRM Update #8 – A Preserved Love Story

Dried rose with correspondence, Asa Spaulding to Elna Bridgeforth, circa December 1931.  Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, Box EC-4, Folder 3:  esgms04003022
Dried rose with correspondence, Asa Spaulding to Elna Bridgeforth, circa December 1931. Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, Box EC-4, Folder 3: esgms04003022

Elna Spaulding is a central figure in the materials that Duke has digitized for the Content, Context, and Capacity Grant.  The records of the Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, an organization that Mrs. Spaulding founded and led from 1968 until 1974, are available now.  In addition, all of Mrs. Spaulding’s personal papers have been digitized and will shortly become available for viewing.

In anticipation of both the publication of Elna Spaulding’s myriad professional accomplishments and Valentine’s Day, this month’s update focuses on the personal connections underlying the accomplished careers of Elna and Asa Spaulding. In the years prior to their wedding on June 24, 1933, Asa Spaulding and Elna Bridgeforth corresponded regularly.  The following two quotes are from letters that Mr. Spaulding sent to Miss Bridgeforth:

“I would not put you out of my life if I could, and I could if I would…Do you know the song: ‘I wouldn’t change you for the World.’  The words are quite significant.” (December 30, 1931)

“As I start out upon the first day of a New Year it is with thoughts of you and with [a] heart full of thanksgiving for what the past year has meant to us and with much anticipation as to what lies before us.  I wish I might look into the future and see.” (January 1, 1932)

Unfortunately, we do not have Elna Bridgeforth’s replies, but we know that she kept a rose that Asa gave her with one of these letters (pictured here) throughout her life.  We encourage readers to peruse the correspondence between the future Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding to gain a unique look into one of the most influential couples in the modern history of Durham.  You may even find inspiration for a Valentine’s Day note of your own.

Post contributed by Josh Hager, CCC Project Graduate Assistant.

Text Messages of Love

While this Valentine’s Day might result in many short love notes being traded via smartphones and Facebook walls, sweethearts sometimes used a different method in the early 20th century: the telegram. Ella Fountain Keesler Pratt, a Duke employee for almost thirty years (1956-1984), was the recipient of several sugar-coated missives delivered by Western Union in the 1930s. These are a few of the loveliest love letters, found while processing Ella’s papers.

Telegram from Duke
Duke begged, "Please give me a few dates ... Don't leave town if you do I'm coming after you."
Telegram from Frank
"Want date Sunday night No answer means Yes Love, Frank."
Valentine's Day telegram
A secret admirer rhymed, "Than my skeeter none is sweeter if she'd only write."
Telegram from Lanny
"Incidentally I Love You," signs Lanny.

Ms. Pratt eventually married Lanier “Lanny” Pratt in 1938; he attended graduate classes and then taught at Duke University until his death in 1956. He must have said something right!

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis, Drill Intern, University Archives.

Honeymooning with the Cowpers

On April 17, 1909, Frederick Augustus Grant Cowper married Mary Octavine Thompson. Frederick became Professor of Romance Languages at Trinity College (now Duke University), while Mary (who earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Chicago) became a suffragette, helping to organize the North Carolina League of Women Voters in 1920. Both Frederick’s and Mary’s papers reside in the Rubenstein Library.

The Cowpers' honeymoon scrapbook, with flowers picked by Mary

While on their honeymoon in New Hampshire, the Cowpers took many photographs they placed in an album they titled “Photographs of their Wedding Journey.”  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is my favorite photograph and caption:

The Cowpers' honeymoon scrapbook, asking "How'd you like to spoon with me on Mt. Gardner?"

Post contributed by Kim Sims, Technical Services Archivist for Duke University Archives.