Part of what I enjoy about our work in the lab are the stories told or imagined through the items we treat. Most days I’ll run across an item that will bring a smile to my face, set me off daydreaming, or say, “huh?” and send me to the internet.
This is a short entry to share some of the gems I’ve run across while working on the Wylie house letters. You can read more about the actual treatment process in other entries.
For a period of time, we noticed letters containing ‘kisses’, some of which were quantified like in this example, six kisses represented like this: oooooo (perhaps by mistake, using o’s instead of x’s), which were to be divided equally between the letter recipient and baby. This got us wondering about the origins of xo. A quick google search (thanks Wikipedia and Washington Post) suggests that x originated from Christianity, representing Christ’s qualities of faith and fidelity. It was used in place of signatures in early documents. The WP piece looks at the historical usage of xo and includes musings on its current usage in the digital communication.
Don’t have the exact date for this one but it is from around the turn of the century, like the other letters in this entry. It captures well the shock of going from small town to big city and encountering new technology. “POLICE, MURDER, FIRE!”
Lastly, is this letterhead from the Spelling Reform Association used on a letter from 1880. The association included Melvil Dewey of decimal system fame and advocated the following changes to English spelling:
- Omit a from the digraf ea when pronounst as e-short, as in hed, helth, etc.
- Omit silent e after a short vowel, as in hav, giv, liv, definit, infinit, forbad, etc.
- Write f for ph in such words as alfabet, fantom, camfor, filosofy, telegraf, etc.
- When a word ends with a doubl letter, omit the last, as in shal, wil, clif, eg, etc.
- Change ed to final to t where it has the sound of t as in lasht, imprest, fixt, etc.