February 2020

To Annie, From Harry

Great Britain


Valentine’s Day is a fitting occasion for stories of star-crossed lovers and boundless love. At Stanley Gibbons, we credit the invention of the postage stamp with bringing those couples together. 

Today we look over the love story of Henry Culshaw and his colourful hand-illustrated covers.

Not much is known about Henry ‘Harry’ Culshaw, but two facts are evident. One, he loved to draw and two, he loved Annie Culshaw. When it came to Valentine’s day every year, he found the time to hand illustrate the covers of his love letters.

It isn’t known exactly when he started writing, illustrating and sending letters to Annie, but we do know from the postmark applied to the backs of the covers, that it was strictly intended for same-day delivery; possibly meaning that he wanted to make sure Annie received these letters on Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day only. The detail is particularly special, as he lived in Holborn, London, while Annie lived in Liverpool with her father. 

The first hand-illustrated cover we have is from 1875-- an illustration of a British gentleman with a performer balancing a shield on his nose, could this signify the time where he was a suitor hoping to find love with Annie? The message reads: “With cousin Harry’s kindest love.”


The second hand-illustrated cover dates back to 1877, and we see the progression of the relationship mirrored in the illustration: lovers gazing into one another’s eyes, clothed in matching outfits and stood behind with a large shield emblazoned with a bright red heart. 


Although we are not sure if the couple got their happy ending, we are certain that these illustrations were long treasured by its recipient. 

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