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Friday, December 18, 2015

When did people start using "XOXO" to mean "hugs and kisses"?

After receiving a text with “XOXO” as the signoff, one of our patrons was curious about when and where the custom has originated. According to the 1965 book How Did It Begin? by R. Brasch, the X became synonymous with the kiss in the Middle Ages, when people would sign documents with an X and then kiss them to show their sincerity. However, Brasch offered no source for this information and didn’t mention the O, so we sought another source.

Around Valentine’s Day last year, Nadine Epstein wrote an article for the Washington Post on the history of X’s and O’s. She also traced the X back to its use as a signature, as well as its being used as a symbol for Christ (as in X-Mas). The Oxford English Dictionary attributes first use of “XXXXX” in a sign-off to a letter written in 1763, but the X’s there may have stood for “blessings” rather than “kisses.” In 1894, Winston Churchill wrote a letter to his mother that ended with “(Many kisses.) xxx” and a poem from 1893 mentions young women using “little crosses for kisses” in their love letters, so the custom can be traced back at least that far.

While the O is more of a mystery (although some people say it came to represent a hug because it visually resembles one), “XOXO” seems to have been around at least since the 1960s. Epstein even recalls her mother teaching her to end her letters that way.

For more information on letter-writing, Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note collects a variety of correspondence, and Laura Brown’s How to Write Anything gives advice on how to write letters, emails, and announcements. Both are available here at the Newton Falls Public Library.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Could you give me more information about this Louis Vuitton hat box?

A patron brought in a vintage brown leather hat box with a velvety, mushroom-colored lining. “Bté. SGDG Patent” was stamped on the lock, along with “Made in France,” “Louis Vuitton,” “1 Rue Scribe, Paris,” and “149 New Bond St., London.” Louis Vuitton opened a store at the Paris address in 1871, and his son opened one at the London address in 1889. “Bté. SGDG” is the abbreviation for “Breveté Sans Garantie du Gouvernement” which means "Patented without State Guarantee" and was used up until 1968. All of this information helps date the hat box a little.

The box was also stamped with a six-digit number inside. While Louis Vuitton pieces made in the last thirty years have date codes that can identify when and where they were made, we were unable to find anything to help us decode the number on the hat box.

Our patron was interested in possibly finding patent information for their item. We checked the French patent office (INPI) database, but it didn’t go back as far as we needed. INPI has a separate database called Brevets français 19e siècle set up for their vintage patents. We searched there too, but the information was sparse and nothing seemed to be for a hat box.

A little more searching around brought up an antique dealer’s website. The dealer had posted a hat box that looked very similar to the one our patron had brought in. On the website, the box was dated circa 1910 and valued in the $5,000-$15,000 range. We checked Price It!, one of our library databases, to get an estimate of better estimate of how much the box was worth. Similar items were selling for about $5,000.

We have several books on antiques available here at the library, such as the latest editions of Warman’s Antiques and Collectibles and Antique Trader Antiques and Collectibles. For more information on Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion, and Architecture is available through CLEVNET.