Tag Archives: valentinesday

Three Last Minute Valentine Ideas from the Rubenstein Library

Post contributed by Amanda Lazarus, Ph.D. Candidate and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern for the Rubenstein Library.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, our love of archives, and busy/forgetful people the world over, here are three very last minute gift ideas for your Valentine, straight from the Rubenstein Archives!

Vintage Cake Recipe

If you’re a bit (or very) obsessed with GBBO and your Valentine loves sweets but isn’t into chocolate, this one’s for you!

Marian Jane Parker’s Selected Recipes and Menus for Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions (1920s) offers readers three different menus for Valentine Parties and a shortlist of recipes that vary considerably in complexity. Among these is a simple recipe for a heart-shaped cake made with pantry staples, which makes it ideal for hasty baking. Don’t have a heart-shaped cake pan? Neither did I! Just use what you have on hand and adjust the recipe quantities and baking time as needed. Since my cake was destined to feed no less than nine RL librarians, I doubled the recipe and made the sponge in two 9” round cake tins.

After 35 minutes in a 350F oven, everything was perfectly baked. I left the cake rounds to cool and moved on to the icing. Since MJP advises you to cover your cake with “white icing” without specifying any ingredients, feel free to choose your own recipe (vanilla buttercream and whipped cream are classic options), or keep things easy and use a prepared icing product. As for decorations, these can be as simple or elaborate as you like. MJP recommends you adorn your cake with small hearts, while the photograph shows her heart-shaped cake a bit more gussied-up with red and pink piping. I added a pink marzipan cover to my cake since I had some almond paste hanging around, and added strawberries—inside and out—both for the bright flavor and Valentine’s Day color. As a final touch, I cut the strawberry toppers into little hearts.

Custom Mittens

Easy, scalable, and will fly off your needles in no time!

I know what you’re thinking, “Winter’s over, it may not have even happened at all.” While that may be true-ish, here’s what I know for certain: summer is coming, which means we only have 2.5 months before Perkins undergoes its annual transformation into an ice cube. So, this Valentine’s Day, show your friends and SOs how much you care, and give them the gift of bespoke forethought and coziness. Give them the gift of handmade mittens.

This pattern for adult mittens comes from the Sarah E. Goodwin Needlework Patterns Collection, and is one of many charming designs and printed instructions for the creation of tapestries, collars, edging, capes, mittens, afghans, hoods, curtains, infant shoes, slippers that Miss Goodwin both collected and created during her life. In the 19th century, it was common for women to submit and collect needle work patterns from their local papers and women’s journals. Here, Miss Goodwin appears to have copied out one such pattern:

Rule for Knitting Mittens Mrs. M[ose?]/ Washington 1866.
22 stitches on each needle, knit an inch or more seamed, make a seam stitch each side of one of the two stiches and widen one new stitch between, knit 5 rows and widen twice just inside the two seams and so continue until long enough to commence to close the thumb. When there are 23 stitches between the two seams, take them off with a darning needle on a piece of yarn. Continue your knitting by making 8 stitches when you made the thumb knit around once. The second time slip and bind at the beginning of the 8 stitches and narrow at the end of them. Knit once plain again and narrow again as before then continue to knit to the end of the little finger these narrow once in 5 stitches and knit 5 rows, once in 4 and knit 4 rows until you finish. Take up the 8 new stitches one needle the rest on the other two, knit around and narrow twice as before. Knit plain until as high as the nail then narrow twice in each needle every other time.

After working this pattern myself, here are a few additional notes to help you get started:


  • 220 yard of DK weight yarn
  • US 5 / 3.75mm DPNs (double sided needles)
  • Stitch markers (paperclips work, too!)
  • Darning needle
  • Waste yarn

After you’ve cast on all your stitches (44 in total), evenly redistribute your stitches across two other needles (11 stitches over 4 needles), before joining in the round.

Happy Knitting!

New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year

Back in the mid-19th century, folks did their Valentines by the book, and this book in particular:

In addition to having the longest title I have ever seen, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or, Cupid’s Festival of Love , Containing All the Most Popular New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year (this is only the half of it), is an example of books of Valentines that became quite fashionable during the 19th century.

Typically written in a series of rhyming couplets, some of Richardson’s Valentines are sweet, while others are sour. The best, in my humble opinion, are those dedicated to a person of a particular demeanor or profession:

*Did you know you can purchase all of these supplies at the Scrap Exchange**?
**Not a sponsored post.

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.