J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Valentine’s Card from 1752

Historic New England’s collection includes this cutwork valentine with German fraktur calligraphy.

The border features men, women, birds, and flowers cut from paper. In the center is a poem, which reads in translation:
Let love occupy your heart
Let love inflame you continually.
Not a love which burns with incontinence
And pursues a base desire for worldy things.
God’s love should impel you
To leave Evil alone
To love your Neighbor as yourself
And carry your cross forbearingly
Below that are the words “Made in Honor of Sophia Kemper,” the name “John Tillman Dickenshaw,” and what I suspect is an attempt at “in [?] month…in the year of our Lord 1752.”

The most recent issue of Historic New England magazine shows this artifact and reports that the handwriting and cutwork match one dated 22 May 1754, now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The man’s name might be an Anglicization of Johan Dielman Dickenschied, who was born in Prussia in 1727 and arrived in Philadelphia with his parents and siblings in 1744. Or that similarity might just be coincidence.

Maria Sophia Kemper (1739-1832) was the daughter of German immigrants to New Brunswick, New Jersey. How did her valentine come to New England? In 1761 she married businessman John Morton in New York. Their daughter Eliza Susan Morton visited Massachusetts in the 1790s and caught the ear of Josiah Quincy, son of the Boston lawyer of the same name who had died in 1775. Thus, her mother’s valentine eventually came to be part of the family papers at the Quincy House.

(Just to tie everything together, Josiah Quincy courted Eliza Morton at Elizabeth Craigie’s house in Cambridge—the same house featured in the Washington’s headquarters tours I mentioned yesterday.)

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