As tomorrow is Valentines day, it is the perfect time to highlight some of the lovely valentines in our collections. Sending messages of affection was not always done in the commercialized fashion of today. In the mid-19th century you were more likely to receive a hand illustrated missive with a heartfelt original poem. The delicate paper on which they were written often imitated intricate lace. These precious keepsakes could be treasured for a lifetime.
Emma Marinda Drew received a number of valentine messages while still a single young girl in Duxbury, MA. Emma was born in 1834, the daughter Capt. Joshua Drew and Marinda Wadsworth. Four years later her brother, Daniel, was born on St. Eustatius in the Caribbean. Duxbury mariners did not often take their wives to sea, but it was not unheard of and baby Daniel is not the only Duxbury infant born abroad. Emma may have traveled with her parents on this voyage or, more likely, she was left in the care of one of the many Drew or Wadsworth relations in town. Her youngest siblings, Flora (b. 1840) and Joshua (b. 1844), were both born on the terra firma of Duxbury.
The valentines given to Emma in the collection all date from 1850-1852, when she was between sixteen and eighteen years old – the perfect age for courting. During the mid-19th century, just as today, girls would hand their best friends
valentines as well. No doubt the majority of the poems in the collection came from Emma’s closest female companions. They also follow the tradition of secret valentines, forcing the recipient to guess at the sender identity. In one, the anonymous author writes:
If thou should’st guess me, do not tell.
But in thy heart the secret keep
And when thine eyes are closed in sleep;
And visions on thy slumber shine
Then dream I am your valentine
I particularly like the verse that uses the imagery of the sea and sailing – perfect for a seacoast town like Duxbury:
I love the ship the gallant ship
That bounding o’er the bay
With compass true, like I & You
To Hymen points the way
My heart heaves like her snowy sails
All bending to the breeze;
And when safe from wreck and
boisterous gale, My heart may know some ease;
Yet in storm or calm oh!
Why repine thou art my faithful valentine
Emma married Lyman Drew, a musician and music teacher, on August 16, 1855. The couple had one child, Mary Lyman Drew, born in 1858. In 1881 Emma and Lyman purchased an old house at 152 Marshall Street in the Standish Shore area of town. The house was perfectly situated to be an attractive boarding house and indeed it became a popular destination. It was close to the beach and the Myles Standish Hotel and a only short walk from the newly erected (although not complete) Myles Standish Monument.
Emma became a widow in 1887 when Lyman died but she continued to run the boarding house until 1907. She then became a boarder herself, moving to the home an acquaintance on Chestnut Street. Emma M. Drew died in 1913 at the age of 79.