The Art of the Love Letter: Exploring Ephemera


In 2012, I participated in the Arthouse Coop’s 10×10 project. My submission to The Note Swap was made with washi tape and gel medium mixed with a green powdered pigment from Pearl Ex. I transcribed the letter shown below as reminder of the art of cursive and a nod to my love of ephemera and history.

The art of love letter writing will never be lost, but the art of a handwritten love letter done in cursive is endangered. In fifty or a hundred years there might be few who can even read them. I have a few boxes of family letters that I hope someday will net a shred of genealogical gold or inspire an incredible story.

I will share one with you. From George to Helen in 1928 when they were both at school. Helen was born in 1909 which gives you some perspective. The letters I have are from different boyfriends and sweethearts, mostly from one serious boyfriend that was not her future husband, but I will share some of those at a different time.

This wild letter is from a different beau… George – a student at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. He and a friend sailed up the coast to Cape May in a Sea Sled, which is a type of catamaran. I think that's it's fascinating that you can look up the weather for 1928 online. The internet is such a powerful tool for research and writing. The letter has less to do with romance and more to do with college hijinks.

The letter is sent to Helen while she resided at Wheeland Havens in Illinois. There's a good story to be told there, but I'll let you wander down that rabbit hole on your own. One of the great values of Ephemera is plain in this letter. The letter is a lovely reminder of how a boy loves a girl, but the history behind the people, and the setting is the stuff that makes a good story. Will this inspire you to write a story? Will you use this as a writing prompt? Let me know!

I'll leave you with the transription of the letter. It's verbatim, so there are errors. If I couldn't make out a bit, I took an educated guess. George must have been quite a guy, and based on the letters I've found, Helen must have been quite a lady. Enjoy...

Mailed Sept. 7, 1928 to

Wheeland Haven, Riverton, Illnois via Air Mail

Thursday Nite

My Own Sweet Love,

I don’t know whether you will think the post-mark rather queer but there it is anyway. The reason for it is that Pete and I took a big trip in his Sea Sled. We were going to Phila but as we have to be back Sunday I’m afraid we can’t make it.

We landed at Cape May this afternoon in a driving rainstorm, soaking wet and very much discouraged. We came up to this girls house and there appeared to be nobody home so we just walked in and took off our wet clothes in the kitchen. Pete had told me that her mother did a little light and fancy drinking once in a while and when we got here we heard these queer voices upstairs and it seems the old lade was cock eyed up in her room. Just about then the girls older sister walks in and says that Pete’s girl has gone down to Virginia, so she gets us supper and then she digs up some old hen and we play bridge while her mother sings and whistles upstairs.

She then goes to sleep and we decide to go out and get a few beers. Having gotten 12 up time to go come and see if the Ma has come too yet. Pete is now on the floor writing a drunken scrawl to Mimie (which I hope this is not) while yours truly is lying on a nice soft bed writing to the darlingiest girl in all this wide world. When I get home on Sunday there had better be a letter from you or George will be the most disappointed boy in this section of the United States. I hope you got out to Riverton all right and also got my last epistle, if I remembered the address right.

Now Helen darling, I’ve come to the conclusion that I miss you more than I thought I possibly could which must be beacuse I love you terribly, awfully and I’m very much afraid infinitely which is I think, as it should be.

I love you so,

George

#ephemera #seasled #washingtonandlee #1928 #weatherof1928 #capemay #Arthousecoop #Thenoteswap #wheelandhavens #riverton #illinois #newjersey #college #loveletter #cursive #writing #loveletters #handwrittenletters #handwriting #letter #vintageletter #airmail #writingprompts #writingprompt