Behind The Scenes

A Few Romantic Items At The New-York Historical Society

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Thanks to Chaucer, we now associate the holiday with love, though the fates of Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome were not very romantic. Still, we have numerous tokens of love in our Museum collections, ranging from the 1750s to the 1960s. Below are just a few, but tell us, what are your favorite love-centric items in our Luce Center?

Wedding ring in box

Wedding ring in box, ca. 1750, Gold, Gift of Frederic Gallatin, 1889.7ab

What could be more romantic than a wedding ring? This was the ring of General Horatio Gates (1728-1806),  with the inscription ”Let love abide till death divide” engraved on the inside. Born in England, Gates served in Nova Scotia under Cornwallis in the British army as a youth. He came to America in 1772, purchasing land in what is now West Virginia. Siding with the colonies when the Revolution broke out, he joined the Continental Army and was given the rank of brigadier general. In 1790 he freed his slaves, sold his plantation, and moved to New York. He served in the New York State legislature from 1800 to 1801.

"The Chariot of Venus" mantel clock

"The Chariot of Venus" mantel clock, Antoine-Andr, ca. 1803-1810, Gift of Mr. Goodhue Livingston, 1951

Venus is the Roman goddess traditionally associated with love and fertility. This clock represents the allegory of Venus and Adonis, depicting the goddess in a swan-pulled chariot gazing at her lover, with her son Cupid nearby. Unfortunately, the story of Venus and Adonis does not end well. Despite her warnings, he is killed while hunting boar. But Venus turns him into a flower, the anemone, whose beauty can be enjoyed every year, albeit briefly.

I love Rocky!

I love Rocky! Bumper Sticker, 1960-1968, Paper, INV.7091

Some people feel immense love for their government representatives. Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York Governor and Vice-President, ran unsuccessfully for U.S. President in 1960, 1964 and 1968 on the Republican ticket. But his supporters were with him, as shown by this bumper sticker. And you don’t have to feel bad for Rockefeller’s failed Presidential bids; he was re-elected Governor in 1962, 1966 and 1970.

Chalkware (love birds)

Chalkware (love birds), 1850-1890, Purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937.1134b

Aren’t these lovebirds adorable? This object is part of our Elie Nadelman collection. Nadelman is well-known today as an avant-garde sculptor, but he also had a remarkable collection of American folk art. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman’s collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. New-York Historical purchased Nadelman’s entire collection in 1937.

Fan

Fan, 1939, Paper, Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.1406

Who knew that fan gestures held hidden meanings? Apparently the men of the 1930s were clued in. This fan shows  ”Instructions for the genteel female in the proper Coquetry of the Fan” and warns ”Ladies employing these Rules in the exercise of the Fan do so at their own Discretion & Risk.” To say “I love you,” draw the fan across your cheek. To say “you may kiss me,” put a half-opened fan across your lips. Try it out on your special someone today!

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