“Put on the Shelf” – Wilmington, Delaware (1917)

Mr. Lester Burns lived in Wilmington, the city on the Brandywine Creek and the Christina River in northern Delaware.


In February of 1917, Lester received a postcard from a friend who is identified as, “Guess”.

From the illustration on the face, we might assume that the sender is a young woman.

The postcard is probably a greeting for St. Valentine’s Day, but it is not identified as such; the illustration does pose a romantic problem.

A simple drawing shows a girl sitting on a wall while a boy stands nearby.

The verse describes the thoughts of the girl:

“I’m listening eagerly to hear

The Boy declare himself.

If he falls down, the chances are

I’ll put him on the shelf”.

The girl, it seems, is not willing to wait forever for the boy to make a move.

The whimsical postcard was published by the Gibson Art Company of Cincinnati – the firm was absorbed into larger publishing conglomerates through the next century.


We cannot know if Lester’s friend was trying to encourage him to become bolder in love, or if the postcard was simply thought to be amusing.

One hopes that Lester and his correspondent enjoyed a happy Valentine’s Day and that they found romantic success in their lives.


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