The Art of the Handwritten Message

Sep 3 · 2 min read

When is the last time you’ve written a handwritten letter to someone? Archivist Marie Penny takes a look at some letters from the 1940s that are in the Norton archives.

By Marie Penny, Archivist, Norton Museum of Art

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1941 Postcard of the façade of the original entrance on South Olive Avenue.

The handwritten (or typewritten) letter can be considered an artform. Letters also provide insight into the writer, and context into what is happening in the world.

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(left) 1947 envelope, (right) 1947 telegram

This 1947 Envelope is addressed to Norma Fitzgerald, secretary, from Ralph Norton. Note the cost of the stamp, the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote, and the lack of a ZIP code. ZIP codes were not implemented until 1963!

The 1947 Telegram featured is from Ralph Norton to Director E.R. Hunter. The telegram was sent after a hurricane passed through the region. The baby Norton refers to was born at the Norton during a 1945 hurricane when military and their families sheltered there. The last telegram Western Union sent was in 2006!

These letters are a valuable resource and offer the opportunity to hear artists speak in their own words about their work. To learn more about these letters and other paper discovered in the Norton Museum of Art Archives, I invite you to watch the video below to view letters from the archive written in the 1930s and 1940s. The papers of Ralph H. Norton include correspondence with artists and reveal Norton’s interest in learning more about the artwork he collected.

Wonder why the placement of the Diana and Actaeon sculptures is different in the 1941 postcard? Learn more about the switcharoo of the sculptures here.

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Norton Museum of Art

Stories about art shared from the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach Florida.

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