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A Valentine For Our Readers

A bit of Valentine’s Day fun for this blog post which looks at artifacts in our collection that are cataloged with the words valentine, love, darling, chocolate, candy, kiss and heart in either the name or description fields in our collections database.


This is a ship’s clock from a vessel that started out with another celebratory name—SANTA CLAUS. Built by Thomas & William Collier in New York, she launched as a side wheel passenger steamer in 1845 with her paddle boxes decorated with an image of Santa Claus, a chimney and his toy bag. The ship was converted to a tow ship in 1859 for the Cornell Towing Line and retained the name Santa Claus until it was rebuilt in 1868 and the name changed to A. B. VALENTINE to honor an agent who worked for the company. The VALENTINE’s career ended in 1901 when the ship was retired and sold to a scrapper. This clock was part of a large maritime collection given to the museum in 1941. (NA 103)


Ah, love is in the air…and in the water with this magazine advertisement for Jantzen swimwear. Captioned “this is the life, sun is warm….love and youth and life are wonderful” and the “new fabrics are potent, the colors deliberately romantic.” The sunny yellow, green and orange colors are just what we need to get us dreaming of warmer weather. This piece is one of thirteen swimsuit advertisements purchased for an exhibit on the history of swimwear and beach bathing etiquette. Not all of them were put on display at that time, but they provided curators with background information for our label copy and they are definitely a bit of fun in our collection. (2001.06.03)


A colored lithograph, circa 1840, celebrates the determination of 22 year old Grace Darling and her efforts to save the survivors of the wrecked paddle coasting steamer Forfarshire on 7 September 1838. Around 3am and during a violent storm, the Forfarshire struck rocks on one of the Farne Islands located off the coast of Northumberland, England. Eight of the crew and one passenger managed to escape in a lifeboat and the rest clung to rocks and pieces of the wreckage as it was pushed around by the wind and waves. They were spotted by Grace around dawn and she convinced her father, lighthouse keeper William Darling that they needed to try to help the survivors. Despite his misgivings that he and his petite daughter could control a rowboat in the storm, they set out and rescued the nine people who remained alive. Of the estimated 43 casualties, many of the bodies were never found and of those recovered, some were never identified. This print was purchased by the museum in 1946. (LP 3301)


What is Valentine’s Day without chocolate? Here is a circa 1953 individual coffee/chocolate pot measuring just 4 inches high with the gold crossed key and anchor design of the North German Lloyd Line. Used for First Class passenger service and manufactured by Rosenthal in Germany. (1973.60.33)


To hold the Valentine candy, here is a creamware Bon Bon dish decorated with a sepia colored transfer print of the battleship USS ILLINOIS at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company. This type of decoration is also called Transferware after a technique developed in England in the mid-18th century. An engraved metal plate is used to print the design on paper and then the paper is used to transfer the wet ink to the ceramic surface. To fix the design, the object is fired in a low temperature kiln. Prior to this technology, ceramic designs were painted by hand. Bon Bons may have been around since the 1600s according to some sources and the name is a duplication of the French word for “good”—Bon. These good-good confections are usually a soft center coated with a thin layer of chocolate. The battleship USS ILLINOIS was launched in 1898 and commissioned in 1901. (FN 732)


Royalty, a pirate, a lovely lady, battles at sea, treachery, redemption and love. All part of Captain Blood, a 1935 black and white movie and this 1953 reprint of one of the movie posters that were displayed at theaters. One of a group of posters purchased in 1997 in preparation for a pirate exhibit. The inscription reads Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Prince turned pirate to fight the King’s armada and win a woman’s kiss”. (1997.23.01)


A gift from the sea in the form of whale ivory carved into a jagging wheel-also known as a pie crimper. Used to crimp or fuse the upper and lower piecrusts together so the filling didn’t escape while it was cooking. Nicely decorated with hearts, diamonds and rosettes. The only part of this piece that is not natural material is the small metal pin holding the wheel to the handle. Jagging wheels are one of the items carved by sailors while they were on long voyages. A gift to those left at home, a reminder that loved ones waited for them, or just something to fill up their time. (IS 19)

I hope you have enjoyed this Valentine’s Day look at our collection. If you want to see what other treasures are “hidden in the hold”, check out our website at where you can do searches for items in our collection, archives, library holdings and the artifacts from the USS MONITOR. Look things up by keyword, accession number, title or subject. Thanks for reading!

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