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Tucked away in the Library’s Greeting Card Collection (housed within the larger Ephemera collection) is an extraordinary archive of over 200 cards which record the personal notes and messages exchanged for over 40 years between one Sydney couple: Dorothy and Frank Campbell.
They capture the sweet story of ‘Princess Dorothy’ and her ‘Snuggle Bunny’ Frank, a couple who used almost any excuse to give cards to one another – each filled with carefully selected greetings and heartfelt, little affectionate messages.
The Campbell’s courtship can be traced from the first cards they exchanged in 1951:
‘from a silly sausage’
‘from an admirer your Princess’
to an array of pretty Valentine’s Day cards:
‘To my darling S.B. Frank from your loving Princess XXXXXXX’
—14 February 1952
They exchanged cards for their wedding day on 22 November 1952, and for dozens of special moments in between, marked by sweet messages:
‘An anniversary of many happy hours spent together’
—8 April 1954
‘Oceans of love with a kiss on every wave’
Some of the cards show just how they built their life together:
‘Received your letter last night. So thrilled…In case I can’t write tonight, you will know I still love you – Bye now sweetheart’
—1 December 1954
Dorothy had a real eye for choosing great cards, favouring pretty, ‘chocolate box’ style Quality Cards printed in London in the 1950s and groovy designs in the 60s and 70s. They even sent cards to each other from their cats, sharing their happy Ashfield home with their beloved “fur children”, Shellie, Mimi and Goldie.
The couple’s loving messages to each other, in sickness and in health, extended to the very last cards they exchanged on the occasions of their birthdays, in the early 1990s, and for their 40th anniversary on 22 November 1992.
The frequent and loving messages Dorothy and Frank exchanged were in stark contrast to Frank’s relationship with his first wife, Mary, who didn’t speak to him for five years and only communicated through notes left around the house.
Mr Campbell's failed first marriage hit the headlines around the country in early 1951, when Francis John Campbell, 49, clerk, of Trevenar Street, Ashfield, petitioned for a divorce from Mary Agnes Campbell, 44, on the grounds of desertion. Frank claimed that although they continued to share the home they’d occupied since 1927, his wife had shown her husband no affection for 12 years.
Mr Campbell said the couple had been happy until 1929 when his wife began to go out dancing, and often stayed away all night and at weekends. She also refused to wear her wedding ring – saying that she “did not wish to submit to the fetters of married life”. A decade later, she had moved permanently to another room and refused to speak to her husband, only leaving him notes, even screaming if he touched her. Their divorce was granted six months later.
The cards exchanged between Dorothy and Frank date from 1951, so perhaps it was their meeting in the early 1950s that caused Frank to realise he could no longer bear to remain in a loveless marriage.
A romance in 40 years of loving cards
Wishes hold more joy
Greetings are more
When a Valentine's intended
For someone as nice as you,
And remembrance is
With a meaning all its own,
When the wishes and
Are for your dear self alone!
This goes to greet the dearest one
That I have ever known!
It carries many loving thoughts
Meant just for you alone;
And it brings my heart's affection
To you who'll always be
The finest and the dearest one
In all the world to me!
The constant flow of loving messages shared between Frank and his ‘Princess’ Dorothy seem to offer proof of their concerted effort to counter-act the cold-shouldering he experienced from his first wife! There are ‘welcome home’ cards, ‘get well’ cards, ‘just because’ cards, Easter cards – and every celebration in between – marking everything from two weeks to 40 years of marital bliss!
In 2019 we sent out a public appeal for information about ‘Princess Dorothy’ and ‘Snuggle Bunny’ Frank Campbell. We were thrilled to hear from a woman named Denise, who was the daughter of one of Dorothy’s childhood friends. We also heard from a member of the family who told us that Dorothy grew up at 14 Saywell Street in Chatswood with parents Frederick George Pickhills and Ethel Osmond. She was the eldest of four children: Dorothy Ellen, Frederick Lindsay, Dulcie Margaret and Eileen Lucy.
The Pickhills were strict Catholics and Dorothy attended Our Lady of Dolour’s Catholic School in Chatswood, where she met Denise's mum. Dorothy’s father was President of the Shop Assistant & Warehouse Employees Federation of Australia Union. Frank Campbell was an organiser for the Shop Assistants’ Union, which may have been how they first met.
Dorothy's family have very fond memories of their Aunt Dee (as she was known to them). They described her as a bit eccentric – always wearing trousers, blouses and wide-brimmed straw hats.
Overwhelmingly, Dorothy is remembered by those who knew her as a very kind and caring woman who found the love of her life in Frank.
You can find more greeting cards in our Ephemera collection:
Curator, Research & Discovery