Among the many instruments that people have devised to communicate with one another, the postcard fills many roles. If you need a simple way to send a quick note, to let someone know you’re thinking of them, to save or send a souvenir of your travels, or merely to document your own surroundings – postcards can meet all of these needs and more.
Port Huron, Michigan. Fire Department parade, 1910
Montrose, Michigan. Flint River Bridge, 1911
The American postcard was first developed in the 1870s, and the first souvenir postcard in the 1890s. They quickly became immensely popular, with their “Golden Era” spanning from around 1907 to 1915.
Grand Rapids, Michigan. John Ball Park, 1905
Grand Rapids, Michigan. Playground at Reeds Lake, 1915
During that period, the U.S. Postal Service introduced the “divided back” postcard, which included a line on the blank side to separate the address area from the message area. Also during this period, Kodak produced a specialized “postcard camera” which enabled the quick production of “real photo” postcards.
For Valentine’s Day this year, we’re taking a peek into some of the most romantic correspondence collections in Special Collections and University Archives. We managed to whittle the choices down to two correspondence collections that really exude love. We hope you enjoy these snippets as much as we do!
First is the Edward Manley and Jean Worthington Letters, which includes a total of 60 letters written by Jean “Jeannie” Worthington and 159 written by Edward “Ned” Manley. The letters were sent between February 15, 1945-June 27, 1946 while Ned was serving in the U.S. Army. Jeannie, however, was a teenager, still in school in Cleveland, Ohio, trying to decide what she wanted to do with her life. A U.S. Army Private, Ned was assigned to an anti-tank company in the 27th Infantry Regiment in Japan.
The love between these two is heartwarming. Though it’s harder to imagine in today’s world of instant connections, letters were one of the only ways separated couples could communicate during the war. The only way to actually “see” your significant other was via photograph or in your dreams. Ned’s and Jeannie’s letters try to show the other person how much they cared through added emphases, terms of endearment, and the occasional inside joke. They both mention how they will be together “always”, sometimes underlining the world, call each other “sweetheart”, and frequently mention 28–the number of children they joke they will have once they are married. They both mention seeing each other in “Dreamland” at the end of some of their letters, alluding to the place they can at least pretend they are with each other. One example is the end of a letter Ned wrote to Jeannie on February 23rd, 1945:
The love these two share is evident, whether they’re talking about their daily routines or how much they miss each other. Many of these letters mention “Someday”, typically in quotation marks, likely referring to their hopes of being reunited after the war. Jeannie mentions “Someday” twice in the conclusion of a letter she sent to Ned on March 2nd, 1945:
The second collection we chose to highlight is the Doris Keirn and Burley Yehnert Letters, containing a total of 34 letters, 21 from Doris (nicknamed “Dorrie”) between November 13th, 1944 – February 4th, 1946 and 13 by Burley “Burl” between December 13th, 1946 and July 29th, 1947. Dorrie’s letters typically discuss school events, since she was attending the Altoona School of Commerce in Pennsylvania, early musical talent, and her heartache over her separation from her fiancée, Burl. During this time, Burl was a Private at various Army Air Force postings before receiving a promotion to Sergeant, stationed in Tampa, Florida in late 1945. While his letters were written after he was discharged from the Army, he struggled to find postwar work, preventing him from moving to Phoenix, Arizona to be with Dorrie.
Through these letters, it is easy to feel the deep love these two had for each other, which make their separation all the most heart-wrenching. For example, on November 25, 1944, Dorrie is listening to a song from one of her records and has to write out all of the lyrics to Burl because she thought it “suits us perfect”. The song is titled ‘Just Plain Lonesome’ by Burke-Van Heusen for the 1942 Kyser film “My Favorite Spy”. To write out every lyric shows just how much she was relating to this song, missing her fiancée and the moments they shared together. Listening to the music while you read the lyrics she wrote out evokes the loneliness she felt and her yearning to be with Burl.
The letters Dorrie sends to Burl are filled with romantic reminders. Some of the envelopes from Dorrie include special notes written on the flap, such as this example from January 21st, 1945 that reads “Close to you I will always stay/Close to you though you’re far away”:
Two letters even contain lipstick kisses:
A few of her letters include her picture glued on, creating a more personal stationery (and one that Burl would enjoy):
These letters are full of references to her love for Burl. She refers to him as her ‘husband’ even though they had not wed yet, and writes continually about how much she misses him and cannot wait until their time together truly begins.
Burl’s letters are also full of his love for Dorrie. Where Dorrie calls him ‘husband’ he refers to her as ‘wife’ – and even points out how often people believe they are already married! He also is sure to tell her how lucky he is to have a person like her love him in return.
One letter even contains an “I Love You My Darling Dorrie” doodle:
Both Dorrie and Burl begin and end each letter by explaining how much they love the other person. These two truly fit the definition of true love.
We hope you enjoyed this peak into these two love related correspondence collections in our Special Collections. If you’d like to see more romantic letters in our Special Collections, be sure to check out the Olexa letters. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Grand Valley was founded in 1960, and its first classes were held in 1963 on a campus under heavy construction along the Grand River ravines in Allendale, Michigan. Still in its early days, Grand Valley organized a contest to design an official seal. The contest received 60 submissions from nearly two dozen entrants, but the winning logo (so the story goes) was an anonymous design found in the college mailbox with no postmark. The prize money of $100 was donated to the GVSU Scholarship fund. Students voted to select the school colors of light blue, black and white.
The official seal can be found gracing numerous publications, promotional materials, and pieces of stationery in the University Archives. The 1960 date at the bottom of the seal reflects the date of Grand Valley’s founding, not necessarily the date of the item on which it is printed.
Alternate logos, such as the one below, with the “G” and “V” connected side-by-side, also cropped up during the mid- and late 1960s.
Grand Valley State Colleges: 1973-1983
In 1973, Grand Valley adopted a “cluster college” organization, and its name changed to Grand Valley State Colleges. This change reflected the distinctive teaching styles of its four colleges: the College of Arts and Science, Thomas Jefferson College, William James College, and College IV (later renamed Kirkhof College).
The Leaf Logo
During the early- and mid- 1970s, the “GV Leaf” logo, depicted below, graced much of the stationery and promotional materials produced by the institution.
The logo’s designer, W-B Advertising Agency, explained that the smooth flowing line making up the “GV” symbol was characteristic of one large school encompassing a number of smaller colleges within. The tree or leaf-like symbol in the center is symbolic of ecology, rural setting, rebirth, and growth.
College of Arts and Sciences Logo
The most traditional of Grand Valley’s four colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences, or CAS, had curricula covering a wide spectrum of disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences. This spectrum is symbolized below in the logo that included a rainbow-like arch over the CAS initials.
William James College Logo
The William James College was founded in 1971 and was organized under a philosophy of trans-disciplinary liberal education that emphasized critical thinking and personal fulfillment. Named after the famed American psychologist and philosopher, the college’s logo depicts a portrait of a young William James. This logo can still be found painted prominently on the wall of Lake Superior Hall, the building in which the college was housed.
Thomas Jefferson College Logo
The Thomas Jefferson College’s logo was, you guessed it, a portrait of United States’ Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson, after whom the college was named.
Though it began in 1968 as the College of General Education, it eventually grew and evolved into an interdisciplinary liberal arts program that was focused on bringing students “into contact with themselves, their personal and academic needs, their capacities, their values, their aims in life, and to help them integrate these elements into an effective whole by providing the necessary opportunities and resources. The college was housed in Lake Huron Hall.
College IV Logo
College IV provided an individualized, modular, self-paced, and interdisciplinary curriculum intended for goal-oriented students who didn’t fit into traditional modes of education. Instead of classes or lectures, students learned through module books and video tapes that could be checked out of the College’s A/V Center.
The learning modules were supplemented by discussion groups, problem-centered projects, and independent studies. The college’s logo features its name and two beaming light bulbs.
In the early 1980s, Grand Valley disbanded the cluster colleges and reorganized with discipline-based academic divisions. Check back later for an exploration of Grand Valley Logos in the 1980s and 1990s!
Episode 4 is here! In this episode, we take a step away from Joe and Agnes’ story to meet one of Agnes’ friends, Alice Gelisle. This is the only letter we have from Alice, but we felt it was so packed with good information we didn’t want to miss it! In her letter, Alice discusses all the facets of her life–working in a factory, playing basketball, rationing, fashion, and going to dances. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries, Professor Len O’Kelly, and a few talented GVSU Communications students. Alice Gelisle was voiced by student Katie Newville. Special thanks to Marcia Lee for joining us!
Alice’s letter is available below:
Letter to Agnes Van Der Weide from Alice Gelisle, sent Jan. 22, 1944
Did you enjoy hearing Alice’s perspective? Let us know! Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a review on iTunes! We can’t wait to hear from you!
Episode 3 is all about reading other people’s mail. Many thanks to Lynn Heidelbaugh, a curator at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, for speaking to us about the logistics of the postal system in WWII. Lynn is incredibly knowledgeable about all the complexities of how mail and packages traveled overseas, how censorship worked, and the development of Victory mail, or “V-mail”.
To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries, Professor Len O’Kelly, and a few talented GVSU Communications students. Joe Olexa is voiced by student Logan Church.
Letters featured in Episode 3 are available below:
Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Jan. 24, 1944
Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 4, 1944
Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 7, 1944
Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 15, 1944
And as promised, here’s an example of both the full V-Mail sheet and the shrunk down version that would have been what Agnes actually received.
The final V-Mail is in black and white and is only a fraction of the size of the original.
Questions about the mail? V-mail? Military dentists? Have thoughts about the broken engagement? Let us know! Send questions and comments to email@example.com or leave us a review on iTunes! We can’t wait to hear from you!