Artifact of the Month: 19th-century pressed flower picture

An informal poll of North Carolina Collection employees suggests that some of us are true hearts-and-flowers romantics on Valentine’s Day, and some of us approach the day like scrooges.

Regardless of how you plan to spend Valentine’s Day, we hope you’ll enjoy this pressed flower picture from 1882 — our February Artifact of the Month.

pressed flower picture

Pressing flowers was a popular pastime for women in the 19th century, particularly as a way of marking sentimental occasions.

This picture was made by Ella Williams Graves Thompson of Caswell County, soon after marrying George Nicholas Thompson (whose papers are in the Southern Historical Collection) in January 1882. A note accompanying the picture, written by Thompson’s daughter, reads:

Mama gathered and pressed these flowers the first year of her married life, and made the picture the last few months before Graves [Thompson’s son Azariah Graves Thompson] was born. The picture belongs to Graves. In it are woven all her hopes and prayers for her firstborn son. She meant it always to represent that to him.

So, all you Valentine’s scrooges: If that didn’t warm your heart just a little, what will?

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