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West Virginia Independence Hall Offers Victorian-Style Valentines in Wheeling

Photo by Linda Comins Admiring Victorian-style Valentines available through the historic postal boxes at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling are site manager Debbie Jones, left, and employee Sue Beth Warren.

WHEELING — West Virginia Independence Hall is offering patrons a historic way to deliver a special Valentine’s Day gift this year.

Area residents can visit the hall today through Feb. 14 and rent a historic post office box for a specified amount. The recipient of the holiday greeting will get a Victorian-style Valentine and a small box of Russell Stover’s chocolates.

Other items can be added to the rental box as long as the items are within the post office box size of 4.5 inches high, 3 inches wide and 6 inches deep. The box renter will receive a gift tag for the purchased Valentine with the recipient’s name and box number on it.

The recipient will take the gift tag into Independence Hall’s restored post office, find the coordinating box, then go to the call window and pick up the Valentine’s Day gift. All Valentines and items must be picked up no later than March 1.

This event is sponsored by the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. All proceeds will go to the foundation, which in cooperation with the state of West Virginia, preserves, restores and maintains the site of the state’s birthplace and provides a stable, permanent and secure archival environment for permanent exhibits reflecting the history of the state.

On the evening of March 21, 1859, gaslights lit the brand new Custom House in Wheeling. Patrons would enter the original post office at the Custom House through the front vestibule.

The rows of post office boxes were numbered but did not open. There was no mail delivery and no pick-up receptacles outside of the Custom House.

Citizens received their mail through rented mailboxes, where box renters would look to see if they had mail. If they did, they then went to the call window to ask the postal clerk to retrieve it. Receivers and senders paid two cents to rent a post office box.

For those who did not rent a box, The Intelligencer printed lists two times a month of people who had mail at the post office. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed the commission to Archibald W. Campbell, the newspaper’s editor, to become the new Wheeling postmaster.

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