November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Token of Love Colonial America - Puzzle Purse Love Letters

Handwritten Valentines were popular in England and Western Europe from the 15th Century, a tradition that was brought to the American Colonies. But sometimes the lovelorn are at a loss for words. At such times, our Colonial friends might refer to English Letter-Writers, in book and pamphlet form, for advice in composing missives to their sweethearts. Among them, The Amorous Gallant's Tongue Tipp'd with Golden Expressions: or, the Art of Courtship Refined. "Valentines Writers" were also for Valentine's Day and other occasions when heartfelt sentiments were in order. Valentine Writers like The Young Man's Valentine (1797) and Every Ladies Own Valentine Writer (1798) were also perused for enjoyment of verse and witty prose. 


Ye sweet feather warblers that sing thro' the grove,
Convey me this letter to the hands of my love,
Which will case my fond heart with sorrow possess;
I am weary of roving and ne'er can take rest:
Oh now to my pray'r, I pr'y thee incline
And make her for ever my fair Valentine. 


The feather'd race together meet,
And all is harmony complete.
The tuneful blackbird and the thrull,
Make vocal every tree and bulb.
Like them in love my fair let's join,
And be my faithful Valentine. 


'Tis true I love you and with great respect,'Tis true I'm treated with a cold neglegt.
I thought thy frowns were but dissemblcd heat,
And all thy threatening looks an am'rous cheat.
As nurses oft seem to deny a kiss,
To make the fender suppliant steal the bliss;
So I believe'd thou didst abscond and flee,
Only to make me faster follow thee.
But now alas! 'tis earnest all I find,
And not pretended anger but design'd.
Relent dear maid soften that heart of thine,
And try to love your loving Valentine.

Houghton Library
Harvard University

The poems and verses inspired by or copied from Valentine's Writers were written on slips of paper or posted in a newspaper by suitors for Valentine's Day. Verses were also transcribed onto handcrafted love-letters that were folded into puzzle purses as love tokens. Introduced by Pennsylvania-German immigrants who called them liebesbrief (love-letter), the puzzles were embellished with beautiful water-colors in traditional fraktur style artwork.
These puzzle purse love tokens were created on a one foot square of "laid paper" (with laid lines from the paper mold) was folded into a square "purse." The delightful Valentine was decorated with verse and decoration on the exterior. Once fully opened, secret messages would be revealed inside and sometimes an additional token of love - a ring or a lock of hair. I remember making similar folded messages in my school days, unbeknownst to me that people had been creating them for centuries.

Please be sure to click on images to see full size view.

Center view - Houghton Library
May Heavenly Angles their swift wings display 
And be your guard in Every dangerous way.
In every state most happy may you be,
Now I am for Distant pray think of me.

Inside view -  Houghton Library

American Folk Art Museum, 1799
To Sarah Newlin

My Dear this heart that you behold / When you these leaves unfold
So my poor heat with love sick pain / Sore wounded is and breaks in twain.

1769 Georg Lang, Free Library of Philadelphia

Translation from German:
When I arrive, I will be here; when I brew, I make beer; when I bake, I make bread; when I die, I am dead as a mouse.

[in hearts, starting at bottom, going counter clockwise]
1. Yes, when I don’t see you, my darling, my heart is filled with dread and sorrow
2. And would at every moment spring apart in many thousand pieces.
3. I desire faithful love, wounded completely with right love.
4. For to love and not being loved back makes many a beautiful heart sad; but if both love, then two hearts are filled with joy.
5. My heart burns in the blaze of love, but it does not know how yours is doing. Is my heart like mine, then the love will persist.
6. My dear darling, our flames of love will come together with time.
7. Hold firmly on to your heart’s love, like the tree to his branches, and the grapevine to its vine; So I will surrender my heart to you.
8. My heart, your heart, one heart, without any joking. The 26th December 1769.

Pennsylvanian or New England 1790-1810 - Soothby's

As turns the needle to the pole
So my heart's fond inclin'd
To the bright magnet of my soul
And you my Valentine

VIEW MORE HERE: Valentine Love Token Puzzle Purses at Free Library of Philadelphia

Best-selling inspirational romance author Carla Gade writes adventures of the heart with
historical roots. With ten books in print, she is always imaging more stories and enjoys bringing her tales to life with historically authentic settings and characters. A native New Englander, Carla writes from her home amidst the rustic landscapes of Maine. An avid reader, amateur genealogist, photographer, and house plan hobbyist, Carla's great love (next to her family) is historical research. Though you might find her tromping around an abandoned homestead, an old fort, or interviewing a docent at an historical museum, it's easier to connect with her online at https://www.facebook.com/CarlaOlsonGade/.


  1. I had no idea they did that in colonial times or even before. Thank you for sharing and for sharing the pictures. They are rather pretty but I am not sure I like the poems much. Guess it was an English kind of poem.
    Blessings, Tina

  2. Oh, this is wonderful! I want to just spend the day making them! haha!
    thanks Carla!

  3. Thanks! I really enjoyed researching this post. :) &#5825


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