Friday, August 7, 2020

2020 Themed Tea Party Blog Hop -- Vintage Paper Ephemera and Letters

Welcome to our first Themed Tea Party Blog Hop! I'm so excited to be hosting this fun event and I hope you'll take time to read through the posts that each lady has worked so hard on. You can find the complete list of participants at the end of this post.

In past years, I've done an elaborate spread of treats and creativity. They reflected where I was emotionally and were so much fun. I don't doubt I'll go back to similar themes in the future but this year I am in a different place, emotionally, and I wanted this post to reflect that, as well. I know we are all learning things about ourselves, others, and life through this pandemic and we will never be the same. These last six months, I've focused a lot on the kind of homemaker I want to be, as well as spent time helping others build long-distance friendships through my Victorian Letter Writers Guild. This year's tea party will be centered around home, relationships, and correspondence, with a vintage flair.

I'm serving a simple chocolate cake, shortbread cookies, and tea for my party. I've set up my table on our screened porch where I have a lovely view of our forest and can watch all kinds of wildlife like deer and birds. My children have a tree house on a nearby tree so it's fun to sit out there and listen to them play and imagine.

My chocolate mint tea was made from herbs grown in my front yard. It has a lovely scent and flavor and my kids can't get enough of it! We have such an abundance that I'll be sending some to my Mom early next week.

My last outing before COVID restrictions hit in March was to visit my friend Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage. She and I live less than an hour apart so Lynzie and I like to go up there now and then and spend time with her and her daughters. After enjoying lunch, dessert, and a wonderful visit, Lynzie and I stopped by one of our favorite antique stores on our way home. This shop has lots of antique paper ephemera and I love sifting through it for treasures. 

I've brought some of my purchases to share at this party so please grab some treats and a cup of tea and step into the past with me. There are happy bits and sad bits but all of them are treasures!

I began a fascination with the many World Fairs a few summers ago when I read through a run of books about carnivals, circuses, and World Fairs. I love collecting related memorabilia so it was a real treat to come across a little envelope of 10 souvenir photographs from the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. 

My favorite photo is the one on the bottom right because I'm curious about this man in the all-white uniform. He stands out among a sea of darkly-clad people, walking in the opposite direction as almost everyone else.

Underneath the photo envelope is a photograph that I've kept hidden on purpose. I believe I've found a very rare and precious Victorian Memento Mori. These Victorian death photos have always fascinated me but I've never seen one in person. While I can't imagine taking this sort of photo myself, I can understand why this would be something special for the remaining family who likely didn't have any other photo of their loved one. Since I know some people can be sensitive to this subject, I've opted to host the photo on another site. You can find that photo, as well as my comments, at a link at the end of this post. It is not a gruesome photo---it's beautiful and peaceful actually---but it does bring a bit of a shock if you understand what you're looking at.

Do you collect books? I have a pretty large antique book collection and I'm always looking for pretty ones to add to it. Here is a copy of John Ruskin's, Precious Thoughts, inscribed thus: To Johnnie from Bessie, Christmas 1913. I have several titles with a similar design. They're so pretty and great for staging photos too!

Next up is a collection of love letters written over the course of about four weeks during March-April 1930. (I know! Can you believe I found all this crazy cool stuff?!!) Just this handful of letters are very telling as engaged couple Maude and Walter plan their future, narrated by Maude. The first letter has her mooning on about the ring he bought her and all her friends' reactions. She talks of him working in Joplin and buying them a home. 

The second letter includes information on a home Maude wants Walter to go look at and some newspaper clippings about new railroads being built in the area. She uses all the normal not-so-sly wife tactics I use to get my husband to do something he's not 100% wanting to do. Ha! I call it "buttering up".

Letter number three mentions ex-girlfriend(?) Maggie and the surprise she'll receive at their marriage. Ms. Maude is quite the fiery one! In this letter she mentions "The Jew Lady" who told her fortune for 1930: marriage, giving Walter a son, and the death of two local women! Yikes! I wonder if any of that happened!

Letter four gives more of a glimpse into Maude's personal life. She includes a reply letter from her sister after asking if her sister would invite her to come visit---presumably so she could be closer to where Walter is? She says she'll bring her sister a pair of hose "since she has such a hard time" and talks about greasing her hair up with olive oil to make it grow faster. Putting two and two together, it sounds as if Maude has been secretive about her plans with Walter and they intend to surprise everyone with their marriage. I get the impression that the trip to her sister's is a ruse. Oh dear...

The final letter has Maude preparing to teach Sunday School and discussing her shopping trip the previous day to look for a white dress. She's anticipating her visit with Walter and wondering what kinds of tricks he plans to play on her while she's there. She talks about visiting Mrs. Whitwam (a regular character in almost every letter) and how her newest nurse is a "holy roller". Ha! I truly hope Walter and Maude had a long and lovely life together! In fact, after reading through these again today, I did a little digging online and found a pretty lengthy court document that sheds a lot of light on the life of Maude. It actually speaks to the trip in letter number four---but I'll let you figure out that mystery for yourself!

Finally, here is something very special. This letter dated April 25, 1906 was likely read once and put away, never to be revisited. The bits of cloth and hair were preserved within the folds of the letter and surely were long forgotten as I can't imagine someone not passing this precious package on to the next generation. The letter reads:

Dear Uncle,

     It has been such a long time since I wrote to you that I've forgotten whither I wrote to you last or not but I will write you again anyway. This leaves us only tolerably well.

     We have had so much work to do lately that we are all about worn out. I suppose you know everything about dear Mama's death. She passed away the 23rd of March and was burried (sic) the 25th. She had been very poorly all winter and was getting so she could not use her limbs and she wanted to go out to Belle's and stay awhile so we took her there thinking the change would do her good and she would be closer to the Dr. too. She was there only two weeks when the end came. She just gradually got worse and her sufferings were so great the last few days of her life yet she bore it patiently and was perfectly resigned to the Lord's will.

     She passed away very quickly and was gone before we hardly realized what had happened. I tell you Uncle it is the hardest thing we ever had to do was to give Mama up. She was so good to us and we miss her so much. Papa We had her funeral preached the 15th of this month. Bro. Richardson a Holiness preacher, preached the sermon from the 2nd chapter of Revelation and the last part of the tenth verse. His talk was real good and encouraging for us all to be faithful until this life was ended.

     I will send you and aunt Martha one of Mama's handkerchiefs and a lock of her hair and a piece of her burial dress. She was laid away in a white robe. She looked so natural and so sweet. I don't know whether it is right for us to weep for her or not for she is free from suffering now but it is lonely without her. We have broken up house keeping. Papa sold his farm and made a sale and sold off nearly every thing we had. He and I will make our home with Lizzie at present anyway. Uncle will stay at Belle's and Bro. Marshall has work out at Iola. We are scattered in a good many places already but such is death life. 

     Well Uncle I truly hope you will pardon me for not writing to you sooner but I've just been so busy and so many things to see too (sic) and moving up here and we haven't anything done up yet. I am about worked down but maybe we will get through after awhile. I must close now, please write to us soon and tell us all about the relations and your own family. I hope you are all well and prospering. With much love to everyone, I remain your Lov. Neice (sic),

Lillie West

Kincaid Kans.

I was very touched by Lillie's heartbreak over losing her mother, as well as her bravery at moving on. I love the voice of a past era and that the places named in the letter are so near to where I live now. This is a special treasure I will always cherish.

Well friends, my tea cup is empty and my plate has been cleaned of every crumb. I suppose it's time to wrap up this party. I hope you've enjoyed your stay! Here is the link to the Memento Mori photo and description, if you are interested. Click where it says "1 comment" at the bottom right to see what I've written about it.

 Thanks for stopping by and please don't forget to visit the other participants below!

Lynzie at Elegant Homemaking

Jean at Delightful Repast

Sherry at My Journey Back

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