Sailors' Valentines - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Sailors Valentines

Sailors' Valentines

Sailors' Valentines

During the 1800’s, sailors would spend many months, even years, away from home. On their journeys, they often made or purchased Sailors’ Valentines. These ocean souvenirs were made of shells glued on to boxes to create decorative designs. They were meant to be gifts for their loved ones once they arrived after their long voyage.


  • Glue bottle
  • Small paper plate
  • Shells (beads or buttons can be used as substitute for shells)


  • Gain an understanding of how sailors used the resources around them when out at sea.
  • Create your own Sailors’ Valentine for someone special in your life!

Guiding Questions

  • How does access to resources determine what we can create?
  • What other resources on a ship (or in your home) are available for you to express your creative talents?


  1. Place the shells (or substitute material) on the paper plate in the design of your choice. Tip: take a photo of your design as reference, in case any pieces fall out a place when you are gluing them on.
  2. Glue each piece to the paper plate.
  3. Allow the craft to dry for 30 minutes.
  4. Give your masterpiece to someone who matters to you!