“Remember Me”

Sailors’ Valentines are a shell art form developed in the early 19th century. These glass-covered shadow boxes, always octagonal, served as frames for symmetrical compositions of tiny seashells. The enterprising craftswomen of Barbados and other Caribbean ports who made them often included romantic phrases such as “Forget Me Not” and “Remember Me.” The women displayed their Valentines on docks to sell to New England whalers as they embarked for the trip home. Many a sailor’s wife or sweetheart waited for months for her beloved and her reminders were the treasures he would carry back from faraway ports. In the late 19th century, when Caribbean islands ceased to be ports of call for hundreds of whaling ships seeking supplies, this shell art form disappeared.
“Remember Me”

Sailors’ Valentines are a shell art form developed in the early 19th century. These glass-covered shadow boxes, always octagonal, served as frames for symmetrical compositions of tiny seashells. The enterprising craftswomen of Barbados and other Caribbean ports who made them often included romantic phrases such as “Forget Me Not” and “Remember Me.” The women displayed their Valentines on docks to sell to New England whalers as they embarked for the trip home. Many a sailor’s wife or sweetheart waited for months for her beloved and her reminders were the treasures he would carry back from faraway ports. In the late 19th century, when Caribbean islands ceased to be ports of call for hundreds of whaling ships seeking supplies, this shell art form disappeared.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Antique Sailors' Valentine

1850s. Barbados.

Photo Credit: José H. Leal

23 cm
199.
© Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Explain how symbolism is used to represent romantic emotions in Valentine’s greetings
  • Describe the types of symbols traditionally used to represent feelings of love and affection

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