If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a lifetime, he couldn’t love you as much as I do in a single day.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Before online dating sites and social media, couples met through formal introductions and small-town connections. During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), the rules for courting were very strict, forcing infatuated couples to come up with sneaky ways to communicate with one another. In an era of extravagance, the Victorians embedded everyday objects with hidden symbolism to declare their affections.
Visitors to the Farm House Museum on the Iowa State University campus can learn more at the new exhibition “Timeless: Love and Romance in the Victorian Era.”
Some of the Victorian symbols of affection continue today, such as giving flowers and chocolates. Other traditions, like flirting through hand-held fan signals and escort cards, have died out. While farmers in Iowa during this time did not have the lavish lifestyle of European high society and the East Coast elite, courting was still a serious occasion. Through photographs, objects and first-hand accounts in the historic Farm House Museum setting, visitors will be able to get a glimpse into what it was like to be in love in the Victorian Era.
Timeless: Love and Romance in the Victorian Era will run through Oct. 31. The Farm House Museum is open weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. while ISU is in session. The exhibition was guest curated by Sonya Harwood, University Museums Intern and ISU Senior in Anthropology.