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‘Lots of love, darling’: Hundreds of love letters dating back to 1920s up for sale

Hundreds of love letters from decades past are up for grabs, offering a peek into days when pen and ink were conveyors of connection when miles apart.

Jay Preseau has been buying and selling antiques for the past several years.

He recently came across an interesting lot at an online auction – about 600 love letters dating back to the 1920s.

Preseau put in a bid and won, getting little information from the seller as to where the letters came from.

“It’s actually a collection of two different couples’ letters, so I’m not sure if they maybe knew each other or how they wound up together. Maybe the seller just grouped them together,” he told CTV News Winnipeg from his home in Sudbury, Ont.

One couple was Harold Booth and his beloved Olivia – or maybe her name was Ellie?

“The handwriting is really, really hard to read,” Preseau said, straining to decipher the sweet nothings written decades ago in looping, intersecting cursive.

From what he could glean, the couple lived in Massachusetts, and Harold travelled frequently for work.

“This one says ‘lots of love, darling, and hugs and kisses. I will hopefully see you soon. Sincerely, Ellie,’” Preseau read from a letter plucked from the stack.

A small sampling of the letters addressed to Harold Booth from his sweetheart Ellie are shown in an undated image. (Jay Preseau)

The other couple – Charles and Mickie Depuis – lived in Washington. They were also separated by miles and miles, leading to the exchange of hundreds of letters over many years.

Unsure of what to do with the trove of correspondence, Preseau put them up for sale online through Facebook Marketplace and Etsy.

He tried to sell them as a set but with no takers, he’s now selling off groupings of them.

“Anyone that’s bought them has been pretty happy with them,” he said.

“It’s pretty cool to see how things have changed over the past 100 years. Maybe it wasn’t hard to communicate, but it was a lot longer of a process and more of a personal, in-depth approach, as opposed to today where we just send a text message and wait for a reply.”

Some of the letters addressed to Charles Depuis from his sweetheart Mickie are shown in an undated photo. (Jay Preseau)

An archivist’s tips to preserving keepsakes, heirlooms

Heather Bidzinski, chair of the Association for Manitoba Archives and head of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Manitoba, said old correspondence, like these love letters, are some of her favourite archival pieces to encounter.

“For example, I love personal journals, not necessarily looking for juicy bits, but just understanding how our daily lives have changed over time.”

She said precious keepsakes like these can be preserved in your home.

The key is to find a safe, stable environment, shielded from extreme heat or light and not in an area susceptible to rodents, bugs, flooding, or other hazards.

Lamination can also be a big help in protecting these pieces.

“Photo albums are not the best, believe it or not, because of the sticky pages will actually degrade the photos over time, so clear polyester sleeves are great.”

She said some of these pieces can be candidates to be archived, but the key is to find the collection that fits your artifact. For example, if the piece is military-based, it might be suited for the Canadian War Museum. If it’s correspondence or photos from Ontario, look into institutions there.

“If you’re interested in donating them, archivists tend to be pretty friendly people and so if you have questions, you can always reach out to your local archives.”

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