Encyclopedia of American Folk Art

By Gerard C.Wertkin; Lee Kogan | Go to book overview

S

SAILORS' VALENTINES

are ensembles of small sea-shells of various colors, mounted on an octagonal wooden backboard in a mosaic-like arrangement, and enclosed in a frame of mahogany or cedar, with a glass top. Typically, they vary in diameter from about eight to twenty inches (twenty to fifty centimeters). The mosaic is usually a geometric, floral, or heart motif, often accompanied by a sentimental motto or slogan (hence the appellation "valentine"), but seldom including any pictorial or figural content. Sailors' valentines are often double, consisting of two octagonal framed mosaics hinged together, so that they can be closed, with the glass panels facing one another on the inside, and the wooden backboards forming a protective box on the outside. This also enables double valentines to be displayed standing, like hinged double frames for photographs. Contrary to popular belief, sailors' valentines were customarily produced for sailors, rather than by sailors, primarily on Barbados, in the West Indies, where valentine-making was a cottage industry that began perhaps as early as 1830, and flourished during the second half of the nineteenth century. Barbados was a popular port-of-call for homeward-bound British and American merchant ships and South Sea whalers; most sailors' valentines of known provenance have associations with Barbados. Typical mottoes include "REMEMBER ME"and "GIFT FROM A FRIEND," but "GIFT FROM BARBADOS" also appears; the backs of some bear paper labels from curiosity shops in Kingstown, and an inventory identifying thirty-five species of sea-shells found in sailors' valentines corroborates their probable Barbadian origin. Several important examples. However, are well documented as having come from elsewhere: notably, a large double octagon with floral motif, purchased in June 1870 at St. Helena, in the South Atlantic, by whaleman Henry M. Hall of the New Bedford Wave. Variations include mosaics with carte de visite or postcard photographs, and others with personal names or external inscriptions. Other objects incorporating seashell mosaics are also referred to as sailors' valentines, such as small boxes and cases encrusted with shells. Another example often included in the category of sailors' valentines is a late Victorian genre of British sea-resort souvenirs consisting of a picture-usually a small colored lithograph of nautical interest, such as lifesaving heroine Grace Darling rescuing crewmen from a shipwreck in 1838-surrounded by a frame of seashells, surmounted by a glass plate or dome, sometimes including small starfish and other nautical bits, the whole usually circular, rectangular, or star-shaped.

See also Maritime Folk Art.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
John Fondas, Sailors' Valentines. New York, 2002.
Williams, Susan R. A Gift from a Friend: Sailors' Valentines from the Strong Museum. [exhibition catalog] Rochester, N.Y., 1988.

STUART M.FRANK


SAMPLERS, NEEDLEWORK,

pieces of cloth, usually linen, embellished with letters, numbers, and/or embroidered motifs and designs, and worked in silk, crewel wool, or sometimes cotton thread, were made by young girls in Europe, from the sixteenth century, and probably before, as part of their education. This tradition was brought to America, where samplers were worked by schoolgirls all across the country from the seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century. In their simplest form, they were used to teach young women to mark and repair household linens. Decorative samplers, however, were intended to be displayed as evidence of the maker's skill with her needle.

The earliest known American example of a sampler-rows or bands of traditional designs as well as verse worked in cross-stitch using silk thread on a linen ground-was created by Loara Standish, who

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Encyclopedia of American Folk Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Introduction xxvii
  • A 1
  • B 35
  • Bibliography 75
  • C 79
  • Bibliography 107
  • Bibliography 111
  • D 113
  • Bibliography 144
  • E 145
  • Bibliography 153
  • F 161
  • Bibliography 166
  • Bibliography 171
  • G 189
  • Bibliography 203
  • Bibliography 210
  • H 217
  • Bibliography 225
  • Bibliography 235
  • I 247
  • Bibliography 249
  • J 251
  • K 269
  • Bibliography 273
  • L 279
  • M 293
  • Bibliography 309
  • Bibliography 311
  • N 337
  • O 349
  • P 355
  • Bibliography 388
  • Q 411
  • R 421
  • Bibliography 433
  • S 447
  • Bibliography 450
  • Bibliography 472
  • Bibliography 484
  • Bibliography 490
  • Bibliography 494
  • Bibliography 496
  • T 509
  • U 527
  • V 529
  • W 539
  • Bibliography 540
  • Bibliography 546
  • Bibliography 556
  • Y 561
  • Index 569
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