For Valentine’s Day Weekend, we’re posting our favorite excerpts from our archive of love letters between Dorothy Smith and Ellsworth M. Clark. It’s 1932, and their relationship is quite young and unsettled. Ellsworth, on summer break in his hometown of Idaho, emerges as the lovesick but hopeful partner, while the playful Dorothy doesn’t seem quite ready to settle down. —Cathy
Detail from Dorothy Smith Clark scrapbook. Dorothy’s dance card from a Capitol Hill Ward dance from February 1932.
[Ellsworth to Dorothy, 24 June 1932,]
[…] It’s funny how a fellow reads things into letters. When I sat down to write your letter seemed the best ever and the more I read it the more I read into it. I guess I had better put it away and read it again when in better humor.
I wish I could see you tonight and talk to you . I’ve so much to say that will seem funny on paper. I’m afraid I’m a pretty poor correspondent card You might read things into it also. Then let’s hope that I’ll get better in my writing, become I guess its improbable that I’ll see you soon. Oh, Dot. Now here I am getting ‘blue’ etc. I’ll cut this rotten letter short and hope that the next one is very much better. Auf wiedersehen to the sweetest girl in the whole world.
[Ellsworth to Dorothy, 6 July 1932]
[…]There is still a wonderful Indian Summer and Fall coming. There are places to go when the snow is on the ground also. You see I haven’t known you when we could have gone skating, sleighing, skiing, etc. What fun we’ll have if we can get together often enough. Well now that’s figuring a long time ahead, but then I like to dream of anything with wish I may associate your presence. No foolin’.
I wonder if they can’t invent someway of delivering a kiss & hug? (By machinery by luck, not by messenger) I don’t believe that would be such a good idea strike that one out. I’ll try to be there in person for such favors. What is if I would be so lucky as to receive any from the desirable lady.
About your idea on love. It’s very good and very idealistic. I might say that the love you desire to attain some day will be a very wonderful thing for a man. I wonder how many women can keep such an unfailing love though. I’ve seen so many, seemingly perfect, love affairs and marriages go on the rocks after a few months or years. There are so many stumbling blocks. Surely you are entitled to a very good husband. You must be very sure he is, before you give him a love like that which you say you desire to give. – More later-
Later – same day 11:00 p.m. July 6, 1932
Darling, I just couldn’t resist writing a few more lines before going to bed. You see I think as much about you that I just have to sit down and scribe a few words to the sweetest girl in the world.
I shocked myself today when I went through a lot of my old letters. My! The change is rather terrific was really as bashful (and no win the ones I reasoned) that I wonder how I changed. I have some from as far back as 1921. Evelyn flirted writing when she left in 1923 & as I have some from her from that time or until March 1932 (since that none) quite a pile. Then I read the ‘mushy’ letters Maude Kramer wrote me last year. That goes to show how fickle girls are. She must have not meant a word she said or else she changed a powerful lot. I like the ones from Bina were raking funny in the odd sort of way guess I’ve known the whole ‘shebang’ this getting to be a nuisance. I have a nice little place for them where no one can get them, but it seemed a desecration to let the ones I receive from you to lie there by them. Yours are the only ones who seem to really mean anything to me the others are just so much paper and dried ink. Yours are you, your thoughts, and your soul. See! They mean a lot to me Dot. Don’t let anything stop one of them they are what I live upon up here in the sticks.
Good night, for a while old sweet. I’m going to bed & dream of hikes, tennis, shores and wonderful evenings with Dotty Smith in dear old Salt Lake City. Just this before I go. XXX
Ellsworth and Dorothy on a tennis date at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Spring 1932.
[Dorothy to Ellsworth, 10 July 1932]
[…] Did you say you would skate with me next winter? Hot dog! You’re the 1st in a thousand I’ve asked that has been on ice before. (And I don’t mean in cold storage – I’m there right now.) […]
As I glance at you recent salutations and endings I corroborate your supposition that if you once wrote bashful letters you certainly have changed. Talk about flattering phrases, you letters are the most contaminated I’ve ever received from the make of the species. I’ve got correspondences dating back to 1921 lying around, I mean a few rare old specimens. From 1927 till the present I’ve had at least 5 male correspondents in more recent years as many as 8 at a time but do you think I ever allowed anything like you write? I held them down till they were afraid to take the chance of being so daring. Before we moved from 1st North I burned about 200 of those old letters but kept at least one sample of each of them to read over and smile at in my old age. Sometime I’ll get them out and let you see them – and if you haven’t destroyed those of yours keep a few to show me. We’ll stage a court scene and see who can get the most evidence against the other for breach of promise, pretending some of these letters are more recent than they really are. Now I don’t know – I’m afraid I’d lose, but then what have I promised? Still free, am I not?