Valentines and Love Letters

14 02 2019

People have a tendency to save things that bring them joy and happiness.  As such, it should be no surprise that many Valentines and love letters have been donated to the University Archives over the years.  We recently installed a small exhibit in the Reading Room (101 Conrad Hall) featuring expressions of love from our collections.

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Below are images of a few Valentines in the exhibit.  Some are from students to their teacher and others from children to their parents.  One is from a young woman to her soon-to-be husband, and includes a sweet love note hidden within the folds of the Valentine.

 

 

The love letters featured in the exhibit are from two collections – the R. E. Olds papers and the Zee/Schober families’ papers.

Lansing automobile pioneer Ransom E. Olds wrote numerous letters to Metta Woodward, whom he married in 1899.  In his personal life, Olds was a devoted family man.  Even though his correspondence to Metta merely discusses day-to-day affairs, the letters show a sweet and affectionate side of Olds.  Valedictions such as “Ever your true and devoted Ransom” close the letters.

The great love they shared can be seen in photos taken after nearly six decades of marriage. They were parted when Ransom died August 26, 1950.  Metta died a week later, on September 2, 1950*.

Ransom and Metta

Metta and Ransom Olds

The second set of letters in the exhibit were written by Wilmer Zee to Elsie Schober.  The letters from early in 1928 are short and polite, but by the end of the year the content becomes personal, with the letters addressed “Dear sweetheart” [his emphasis] and signed “Your sweetheart love, Wilmer.”  He surrounds his signature with Xs to symbolize kisses.  In another letter, circa 1928, Wilmer writes “Sweet one it seems ages since I last saw those beautiful green eyes of yours and the last kiss from those only lips.”  Wilmer and Elsie courted for approximately three years, before marrying in July 1931.  They were together until Wilmer’s death in 1987.

 

For those of you in more of an Anti-Valentines Day mood, check out the Mark Flowers letters to Emma Miller on our Civil War history website (http://civilwar.archives.msu.edu/collection/7-1C-7/emma-miller/).  The relationship has a promising start but ends in heartbreak.

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Not a good sign when a letter starts “Dear Friend Emma,” instead of the usual “My own darling Emma.”

To learn more about these collections:

Ransom E. Olds papers: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/027.html

Zee and Schober families papers: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/215.html

Leo M. Christensen papers: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/174.html

Emma Miller papers: http://civilwar.archives.msu.edu/collection/7-1C-7/emma-miller/

*Interesting side note: Metta and Ransom Olds were born three days apart (June 6, 1864 and June 3, 1864, respectively), and died a week apart.

Written by Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist

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Morehouse & Townsend Love Letters

11 02 2016

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A new collection available at the MSU Archives is the love letters of Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend. The letters between Milton and Frances began in December 1921 and continue through June 1923.

Milton Townsend was born in 1897, attended Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), and graduated in 1920 with a degree in agriculture science. He then took a teaching job in Hastings, Michigan where he met his future wife, Frances Morehouse. Frances was born in 1903 and after graduating from high school, she attended Michigan Agricultural College in 1922. While at college, she lived in the Women’s Building (Morrill Hall). During her freshman year of college, her relationship with Milton became serious. By January 1923, they were engaged, and were married March 25, 1923. Frances did not return to school after completing her first year.

 

morehouse and townsend

Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend

The best part of this collection is seeing the progression of Frances and Milton’s relationship. In the beginning, they addressed their letters from “your friend”. As time passed, they called each other by their pet names, later “sweetheart”, and then “husband” and “wife”. Most of Frances’ letters are signed with S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss) and many “xxx” for kisses.

While professing their love for each other, they also talked about their day to day activities. Frances talked about her Home Economic classes, working on campus, and events she attended. She also mentioned someone preaching about prohibition during church and how several students on campus came down with scarlet fever and the flu. Milton talked about his teaching job, projects he was involved in, and people he interacted with.

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Included with some of the letters are extra items, such as newspaper clippings of poems, drawings, photos and negatives, valentines, swatches of fabric for dresses, an old stick of gum, letters from other people they wanted to share, extra stamps, and a piece of birch bark that Milton wrote on declaring his love for Frances.

Together, Frances and Milton had four children. After Milton quit his teaching job in 1926, the couple purchased a floral business in St. Louis, Michigan that they operated together until 1963. Frances died in 1984 and Milton in 1993.

Written by Jennie Russell

Assistant Records Archivist





Love is in the Air

15 02 2011

Valentine’s Day was yesterday and love was in the air at MSU.

I live in Williams Hall and have always noticed a picture hanging on the wall of couples kissing before curfew. It made me wonder what other traditions MSU held for its “in love” couples.

The 1950 Wolverine Year Book was such a perfect place for me to begin my research. Not only was the Williams Hall picture taken in that year, but they had an entire story on MSU’s campus dates and traditions.

The article begins by quoting a professor from Bowling Green who did a study on dating and its relationship to grades. He stated that individuals who went on dates five times a week averaged better grades than non-daters. MSU students apparently took his advice!  M.S.C (at the time) provided numerous chances for meeting members of the opposite sex; these included open houses, blind-date dances, and date bureaus. Dates could be anything from a Coke date in the Union Grill between classes to a long awaited dinner dance formal.

Another romantic tradition that has been long standing at MSU has revolved around Beaumont Tower. The Wolverine stated that “Of course, no girl is officially a coed until she has been kissed at midnight in the shadow of Beaumont Tower”. Beaumont was also home to a bench that was reserved for engaged couples only. Only couples with marriage on their minds were allowed to relax there.

Other traditions included a young lady receiving a pin from her special someone from a fraternity house. It’s a big moment when a fraternity man finds a girl special enough to wear his pin! After the pinning, that young lady awaits in her room to hear her special fraternity serenading her below her window.

 

I think all of the romantic traditions at MSU are so special. That is something that those individuals who were a part of them will always remember.

Source:

1950 Wolverine Yearbook