An Heirloom Collection

Southern homes are filled with wonderful collections of heirlooms and antiques like these special letter openers.

Text Linda Wright | Photography by William Dickey

Once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the mail in hopes of receiving a handwritten letter. Precious correspondence, whether from friend or lover, was opened with at least a slight degree of reverence, and possibly, a letter opener. The letter opener, a small knife-like tool precedes the modern postal service as it was around even in medieval times. Made of everything from animal bone to bronze, some openers appeared to be miniature swords while others depicted crawling reptiles. In more recent times, jewelry designers from firms such as Tiffany & Co., Sheffield Silver Co., and Georg Jensen created sterling and silverplate openers with handles duplicating patterns used for their silverware. The letter opener even has an infamous place in American history. In 1775, after Patrick Henry declared his famous line, “Give me liberty or give me death!” he pretended to plunge a letter opener in his chest.