Shell and wood, 1850-60
The Merseyside Maritime Museum
Here’s a Valentine fit for Olive Oyl. Traditionally sailors in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries made items like this while aboard ship to give as a gift to their sweethearts and loved ones upon their return home.
These men at sea—who had quite a bit of extra time on their calloused hands—created decorative geometric arrangements of shells within a wooden case which was usually square or octagonal. Often these tokens included a sentimental motto such as “forget me not.”
This unusual anchor-shaped example is thought to have been made by a Mr. T. Whelan while in the Caribbean, and dates from between 1840 - 1860. During the Nineteenth Century, anchor shapes, along with hearts and cupids, were a symbol of love and fidelity. It is part of the exhibition of Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museum.