Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something I'd like to try...

Anybody ever seen these before?

Sailor's Valentines were originally made (or brought home) in the 1800s by sailors traveling long distances who wanted something beautiful to bring home for a loved one. Sailors would decorate octagonal boxes with local seashells, often including a sentimental message ("Forget-me-not" was understandably a popular theme). The island of Barbados, often a stopping point on long voyages, became a popular place to buy Sailor's Valentines for those who did not make their own.

The one in the picture above was made by my grandmother, with a sailing ship scrimshaw in the center.This one is my favorite. The center is a picture of my grandfather, which was actually printed in National Geographic magazine after he went on a sailing trip with them. The shells spell out "Love is Forever".

As a history teacher, I love when creativity and history intersect. I like knowing that I'm part of a continuum of people who make stuff - although my reasons for making things might be different, I like to think about why people made things and what significance the things they made held for them. I can only imagine what a cherished gift a valentine like this would have been, brought home by a loved one who had spent years away at sea. I think the history of these beautiful valentines is fascinating, and I definitely want to try and make one - perhaps as a valentine for my sweetie?

Has anyone out there ever made one before? I'd love to hear about your experience.


  1. Wow, these are beautiful! I've never heard of this before, but how special that you have examples from your own family!

  2. How neat. I am not familiar with these but would love to make one for my nautical room.


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