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Letters to Mary…

I have become quite fond of working with vintage documents,letters and photos lately. Recently I had purchased a set of 13 old letters written to a young girl named Mary Helen Epler over the period of 1940 to 1946 and I decided to bind them into a book:


"Letters to Mary"
Hand made hard cover book with a paper bag surface,7 1/2"x 5"x 1",leather strap close.

They are all in their original envelopes and looking through them is an interesting way to get a glimpse of what was going on in the world at that time. As I read through them I learned that Mary's birthday was July 14th and that she corresponded regularly with her grandpa who suffered a heart attack in 1942 and died shortly after. There's a letter to her written just a couple of weeks before he died (in the photo below) in which he tells her that the Dr's told him that spending three more weeks in bed would make him a new man. He was looking forward to listening to the Cardinals and Cubs game later that day and hoped that the Cardinals would win. Just a couple of weeks later she received a condolence letter about his death.


At the time it cost only 3 cents to mail a letter and the postmarks encourage buying war bonds. In a letter to Mary from her Aunt Elizabeth in July of 43 she asks Helen if she and her mother are doing any war work and talks about a gas shortage. There is no mention of Mary's father in any of the letters.

I thought about these letters as I created the book that I bound them in and I couldn't help wondering what became of Mary. Assuming that she was a teenager in 46 she could be in her 80's now. I wonder where she is and what she's doing and how her letters ended up in the hands of an Etsy seller who sold them to me.

21 comments to Letters to Mary…

  • I love this idea for saving old letters. I too am a collecter of ephemera like this. You did a great job of preserving Mary’s letters.

  • That’s a beautiful way of keeping the letters and presenting them –I especially like the way you’ve kept the envelopes –I always think it adds to the ritual of reading a letter if you actually take it out of its envelope and unfold it.

  • This book is wonderful,as usual!

  • Wow,Sue…this is breathtaking! 🙂

  • Mary Andrews

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  • Now *that’s* something I’d love to do! I have 150 or so war letters from my father that warrant preservation in that sort of way. Do you do a class,Sue??

  • This is another beautiful and amazing piece you made,Sue! I love what you are doing with these things. Perhaps I should steal my own love letters back from my husband (he keeps them in a ledger) and make a book for him for his birthday…

  • Oh my goodness! How amazing is that? I love what you have done with them. What a beautiful way of honouring a moment in someone’s life. Forever remembered by someone. So cool! Peace!

  • Robin Gasser

    Don’t you just love those old handwritten letters?! –a lost art these days.
    I love the fact that grandpa was a Cardinal fan–so are we –we live just south of St.Louis and love to attend the games and watch all the others on t.v.! As a matter of fact we have one on right now!!
    Robin G

  • What a fantastic project. Where did you find such a wonderful collection of letters for your inspiration?
    Nice idea and your projects are always so beautiful.
    Have a great week.

  • What a wonderful book,just imagine if you could trace either Mary or her family I’m sure they would be thrilled to see what you have made.
    If you wanted to try to trace her,have a look on the geneology (family history and family tree) web sites. If you have enough details about her you might get lucky. They have forums where you could post her name and then anyone researching her would be able to find you.
    Your book is truely beautiful well done
    Billie 🙂

  • What a wonderful way to preserve treasured letters! When we cleaned out my father’s house we found so many documents that would be fascinating to put in a book instead of store in a box. One was a deed for a piece of waterfront property on Baltimore Harbor for $300,and another was a receipt for a relative who bought his way out of Civil War service for $30. Also,all my parents’love letters during WW II. Maybe I will inherit these some day.

  • Oh wow! You know,it’s a wonder that some people saved these letters. Most people just toss things into the trash without a second thought.

  • What a wonderful idea! I have many old documents from my grandparents (birth certificates,news clippings,etc.). It would be fun to put them in a book. I’m taking your class the next time you offer so I can make a book for me!

  • What a wonderful thing you have done Sue! Did you try googling her name to see if anything came up? Sometimes the genealogy places will have info too. It would be so fun to find out more of her history.

  • This is truly wonderful! The retired teacher in me is thinking,kids would love to see these especially because they connect with history. It helps to preserve the idea of “real”letter writing,which is becoming a lost art!

  • Cheryl

    Fascinating that you have these letters! I bet you’d be interested in a book I read recently called The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel. It tells the story of a young woman who is given a diary for her 14th birthday in the 1930’s. It’s a true story,and the author of the book actually found the author of the diary. If you want to see more about the book,you can see it here on Amazon:
    Let me know if you would like to borrow it –I’d be happy to send it to you.

  • Sandy Jandik

    A glance at the life of someone. What a nice way to save them.

  • Oh,that is so cool! (I feel like that’s the only think I say over and over on your blog.) How did you find this great collection of letters?