Love letters

The letters collected here highlight the highs and lows of romance, as well as the ecstatic and mundane moments found in every relationship. Many of the letters come from The Archives of Women of the Southwest, one of the special collections of DeGolyer Library. Its mission is to document the historical experience of women who settled in or traveled through the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and 20th and 21st century women who influenced women’s roles in society and shaped the culture, arts, business, social issues, law, and politics in Texas and the Southwest.


Ione E. Wright letters, 1924-1927

Archives of Women of the Southwest, A2002.0024c

Purchase, 2002. Gift, Rita Kirk, 2017

Letter from Billy to Miss Jane Wright, January 19, 1927

Collection also contains fifteen love letters written in 1927 from a suitor at a university in St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. In this letter Billy discovers Ione is a school teacher and tells her “wish I were back in grade school. It certainly would be soft-have you for a teacher. I bet I would get away with a lot…” He apologizes for hurting her (sweet little) feelings but not writing for so long.

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Jan Sanders papers
DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, A2018.0058
Gift, Jan Sanders, 2018

Telegrams from Barefoot Sanders, November 1951

Jan Sanders is a political activist, philanthropist, and business woman from Dallas, Texas. She met her husband, Judge Barefoot Sanders, at the University of Texas. They married in 1952. Imagine one telephone for an entire dorm of young women? When he couldn’t get through, Barefoot sent telegrams to Jan. “Been trying Case since Wednesday and not through. Hope to leave here about 6pm. All my love. Barefoot"

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Frankie Smith letter to husband, 1893 January 5
DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2001.2344c
Purchase, 2001.

Frankie Smith letter to husband, 1893 January 5

Frankie (Francis?) Smith in Fisher, Texas, writes to her husband, W.R. Smith, in Colorado City, Texas of affairs at home including their infant son ("the lad"), visiting Aunt J. and Lulu in Roby, Texas, and being tired after traveling. Missing her husband, Frankie cannot wait for the time when they “can have lots of loving.”

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Virginia Whitehill papers 1880-2018
DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, MSS 0136
Gift, Margaret Whitehill, 2018

Candy hearts from Bobby-Valentine’s Day 1933. 47 pieces-no two alike

Virginia Whitehill (1928-2018) was a civic activist and champion of women’s reproductive rights in Dallas, Texas. Virginia saved a lot of letters from over the years. A standout is from Valentine’s Day 1933. Pictured here are those classic conversation hearts (47 to be exact, and no two alike), from Bobby. Looks like these candies do not age at all.


Charles F. Richards and Lucinda Morse Richards letters, 1853-1865
DeGolyer Library, manuscript Collection, A1992.1786c
Purchase, 1991

Letter to Lucinda, February 14th, 1863

These letters document the courtship and marriage of Charles F. Richards and Lucinda Morse Richards. Charles and Lucinda were married in 1857. The letters from 1862-1865 detail their long separation including their indecision regarding whether Lucinda should join Charles in California or Charles should return home to New England.

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Addie Tubb Smith Jones correspondence, 1908-1923
DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, A2002.0034
Purchase, 2001

Letter to Addie from Ash, February 5, 1919

Addie became engaged to Asher, a photographer sent by his El Paso studio to New Mexico to cover the U.S. military campaign against Pancho Villa. In 1918 Asher enlisted in the Photographic Department of the U.S. Aviation Corps, and performed duties at San Antonio's Kelly Field, and Garden City, Long Island, New York. Addie's letters to her fiancé reveal racial prejudices of the day, as well as provide descriptive and interesting social commentary. The couple married in 1919 and moved to Brooklyn; Asher's letters to Addie from the road express his love and admiration.

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Isaac Newton Davis and Virginia Saunders correspondence.
DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2014.0003c
Purchase, 2014

Letter to Virginia Saunders, March 15, 1900

This collection contains love letters between Professor I.N. Davis (1870-1948) of Utopia, Texas and Virginia Saunders (1874-1904) of Wimberley, Texas. The census lists Davis as a boarder in Uvalde County at the time these letters were written. This last letter is dated twelve days before their marriage on March 27, 1900 in Johnson City, Texas. “I didn’t get to write you when I first returned home but now I can. How I did wish you were with me…”

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Letters from Emily Swanson to her husband Glenn Swanson
DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, A2014.0027c
Purchase, 2014

Letter from Em to Glen, Ocotber 26, 1931

This collection contains typescript letters from Emily to her husband [Frederick] Glenn Swanson from September 1931 to May 1932 and describe Em's life working in the law firm and her social activities in Amarillo, Texas. These letters are all addressed "Dear Glenn" and are signed "Love Em," most likely Swanson's wife Emily. It appears that Glenn was recuperating from an injury in Tyler, Texas and Em sent him candy, magazines, and letters. In this letter Em drops “just a line while…waiting for Mrs. Morgan to come…” Em had an unexciting weekend, but managed to send off a copy of the October Harpers to Glen. She wishes she could fix up dinner tonight but at least Florence dropped off some nut cookies. “More next time. Love-em.”

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Joe and Louella Elam correspondence.
DeGolyer Library, Manuscript Collection, A2017.0015c
Purchase, 2017.

Letter from Joe to Louella, Monday afternoon

This collection of love letters between Joe Henry Elam and Louella Newton Elam describe Louella's family and friends in Milano, Texas, and Joe's work life with the Bartlett Western Railway and International and Great Northern Railroad Company. Joe writes from Bartlett and Palestine, Texas to Louella in Milano, Texas. “My dearest sweetheart, how are you this afternoon? I just wish that I could see you awfully bad.” He closes by saying he has to stop writing because he is out of paper, “lovingly yours, Joe.”

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James Dealy Smallwood and Elizabeth Hines Smallwood correspondence
DeGolyer Library, Archives of Women of the Southwest, A2018.0046
Purchase, 2018

Letter from James to Elizabeth, February 2nd, 1924

James Dealy Smallwood and Elizabeth Hines Smallwood met at the University of Texas in 1920. The couple maintained a long-distance courtship for nearly five years before marrying in September of 1924. Their correspondence documents the couple's romance, views on life in Texas, experiences with anxiety and depression. As James gets ready supper time, he prances “up and down on the front porch over at mother’s impatiently waiting for ‘action’.” He refers to Elizabeth as Precious throughout the note, and talks about buying them a Ford Coupe so that he “come back and forth (from Goose Greek maybe)” with Elizabeth in tow.

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Love letters