Victorian Letter Writing

Such a ‘lost’ art in the 21st century. But if you are fortunate to have hand-written letters handed down through the family, you truly have a treasure. Since there were very few if any telephones and telegraph messages were expensive, the best method to send messages and family information was via a hand-written letter mailed by the US post office. Most people have at least one letter that has been saved. Most common are letters from ancestors who served during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

During the late 1800s there was a proper form of letter writing for the upper and middle classes (merchants and business owners for example). The most important was that the writing in the letter was perfect in spelling and grammar – no mistakes. People kept a dictionary nearby to check the meaning of words and how to spell them.

The color of the letter paper was important. Used was unlined white or cream but in writing about the death of someone, a black border paper was used. The wider the black border, the closest of the person who died. If you had to use lined paper it showed you couldn’t keep you lines straight.

Only good quality black ink was used to write a letter. You never wanted to use cheap ink that would fade. One’s penmanship was important, the neat style of cursive handwriting. Again another item lost in the 21st century – cursive writing.

Another item to be added to a letter was a date inside of the letter. If two or more letters were sent in one day, a date and time were added. Included was one’s address, usaully just the town and state were written. Placing one’s monogram on the letter paper was acceptable but not on an envelope.

Acceptable closings for a letter for a relative would be ‘Affectionately yours’, or ‘With Sincere Regard’ and for a friend would be ‘Respectfully’ or ‘Faithfully Remember’.

Now go back and examine any old family letters, see if they followed what was considered proper for those times.

Photo: Letter written in December 1882

Related Blogs:

Old Letters or a Diary

Old Family Letters

Finding ‘Lost’ Relatives Using Letters

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