Lot 600
  • 600

Puzzle purse love token (recto and verso) Pennsylvania or New England, circa 1790-1810

6,000 - 8,000 USD
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  • PUZZLE PURSE LOVE TOKEN (recto and verso)
  • Watercolor and ink on paper
  • 12 1/2 by 12 5/16 in.
  • C. 1790-1810
Inscribed recto, ink: As turns the needle to the pole / So my fond heart's inclin'd / To the bright magnet of my soul / And you my Valentine. -/;verso: 1. A heart my Dear present to you / A heart that is sincere and true / My Dearest Dear and blest divine / I've pictur'd here your heart mine; / 2. A heart that ne'er will in [cline?] to join / To any other heart but thine / But Cupid with his cruel dart / Has deeply pierc'd my tender heart;/ 3. This my Dear have sent to thee / To show how firm my love should b / And have between us set a crofs / Which makes me to lament my lofs / 4. Grant me thy love my Dearest Dear / And ease my heart of all its cares / But I'm in hopes when that is gone / That both our hearts will be in one.


George E. Schoellkopf, New York
Barry Cohen, New York, 1984
Marjorie Schorsch, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1984


"Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions," New York, The South Street Seaport Museum, June 20-October 7, 2012


Schaffner, Cynthia V.A., and Susan Klein, Folk Hearts: A Celebration of the Heart Motif in American Folk Art, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984, pp. 98-99
American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 271, fig. 231

Catalogue Note

Puzzle purses were double-sided folded love tokens that were decorated on both sides. The "purse" was presented with the corners folded in to form an envelope. As it was opened, verses were revealed and sometimes a special picture as well. The unknown lover who penned this example thoughtfully provided a road map for the intended recipient. The exterior has four numbered pictorial elements. Each is a schematic representation of the content of the corresponding verse that is revealed when the puzzle is opened. In the first, two separate hearts flank a heart from which a branching tree grows. In the second, one of the hearts is pierced by an arrow. A cross grows between the hearts in the third drawing, and in the fourth the two hearts are joined. The last picture to be revealed is the center, which bears a poetic verse and shows a gentleman standing between two trees. In one hand, he holds a bird, and with the other he plucks a heart from a tree. Although the valentine descended with a Pennsylvania history, there is some question whether it is from New England. The metaphor of a compass is perhaps more appropriate for a coastal New England origin. In addition, the association between love and marital union, with a branching tree springing from a heart, is a motif that is prevalent in family records of coastal Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.1-S.C.H.

1 Peter Benes, "Decorated Family Records from Coastal Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut," in Peter Benes, ed., Families and Children: Annual Proceedings of the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklift, vol. 10 (Boston: Boston Univ., 1987), pp. 91-147.