Sailor's Valentine

Sailor's Valentines are a form of sea shell art, popular in the 1800s, when sailors brought them home to their wives, girlfriends, mothers, or sisters. Most Sailor's Valentines were made in the West Indies, on the island of Barbados, between 1830 and 1880, but production continued into the early 20th century. People used to think that sailors made them aboard ships, but research has shown almost all were made in Barbados for sale to British and American sailors. In the nineteenth century people were very interested in nature and nature crafts and collections; this was only one form of shell art.

This one was collected by Captain Fred L. Hodgkins of Lamoine . Family lore says that it came from Bermuda. Ship registers show that he was master of the Maine built schooners Nellie Woodbury (Ellsworth) from 1884-1895, then Jerome B. Look (Columbia Falls) from 1896-1899; then in 1900 transferring to the Harry Knowlton built in New York. The latter two were the common 3-masted or tern schooners. A trip taking lumber or coal to the south could have been when he bought this Valentine.

Captain Hodgkins' Valentine has the traditional octagonal shape and is the common two-sided model mounted in two hinged glass covered wooden boxes. Messages were common, and if the buyer had a picture one of the sides could serve as a frame.

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