In the Victorian era mourning the death of a loved one was an elaborate and involved process. There were set periods of mourning for particular relatives which could last from three months to two years, special mourning clothes, stationery, and jewellery which sometimes incorporated locks of the deceased’s hair.
Memorial cards like this one marking the death in February 1900 of 12-year-old Jennie (Jeanie) Boyd Fowlds, eldest daughter of George Fowlds and his wife Annie, were given by the family of the deceased to relatives or close friends.
Memorial cards were usually printed on black card, but white cards were popular for commemorating the lives of children. Each of the decorative elements on these ornate cards had meaning. For example, the forget-me-nots around the border of this card represent true love, and the butterflies symbolise the passing from an earthly life to a heavenly one.
There are other examples of mourning stationery among the papers of Auckland businessman and politician Sir George Fowlds. The collection includes letters to Fowlds written on black bordered note paper, sometimes with matching envelopes, indicating the correspondent was in mourning. A wide black border was used during full mourning, the period immediately after the death of a relative, while during half mourning a narrower border was acceptable.
Poignantly, the collection also includes a carefully penned letter from Jeanie to her father dated 6 June 1898 and a certificate of purchase for a burial plot at Waikumete Cemetery dated just two days after her death.
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
Fowlds, George, Sir, 1860-1934. Papers (1872-1934). MSS & Archives A-17, FP 2/6, FP 5/1, FP 10/5. Special Collections, University of Auckland Library.
Brett, M. (2006). Fashionable mourning jewelry, clothing & customs. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.