Blast from the Past: Letters of Appreciation


I was taught very early the importance of writing a thank you letter. I must admit that in this age of instant communication I don’t always do so by mail…but I still value this art and try to adhere to it. A simple thank you letter really shows how much you value, not the actual gift, but the giver. It’s a time to share that feeling of appreciation.

One of my favorite thank you letters is in the collection of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History here at the New-York Historical Society. I was asking the curator Sandra Trenholm if the collection had any early examples of cross stitch, since I lead the Cross-Stitch Circle at the DiMenna Children’s History Museum on Thursday afternoons. We were in a special section of the museum where objects and letters are stored in special archival boxes. Ms. Trenholm went directly to one particular box, opened it, and carefully lifted a tiny cross-stitch.

Isn’t it beautiful!

It says “Any holder but a Slave holder.” It was stitched by a young Miss Lena in 1882 and sent to Frederick Douglass. In appreciation of this special gift, Mr. Douglass wrote her a letter.

Dear Miss Lena:

Please accept my best thanks for “Any Holder but a Slaveholder –” It was beautiful in a dear little girl like you to read and think kindly of my life and history – I appreciate the holder and the letter very highly –

Please receive my best wishes. for your health – Your prosperity and your happiness –

Fred’k Douglass

Washington D.C

Febry 24 1882.

I love his wonderful thank you letter. But what I really love is that Miss Lena actually stitched this piece as her own form of appreciation for Frederick Douglass. She had just finished reading his book, published in 1881, called The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. She must have felt so moved by his book that she wanted to express her gratitude. And she created this beautiful thank you.

It inspires me to create something in appreciation…


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