Monograms and Personalization [...]

When my dad died a few years ago and we were going through all his stuff, neither my little brother nor I wanted to keep any of his silver. My parents had a cabinet in the dining room where they displayed a collection of plates and mugs and the like. I think most of it had been wedding gifts. But we didn't want it. Silver requires so much maintenance -- polishing and so on. It's not like we'd use it. So we put all of it -- heirlooms and all -- in a pile for an estate sale. But there were a couple of pieces that had "ALW" and "FDW" engraved on them. Our initials. I imagine these were gifts when we were either born or christened. And we felt obligated to keep these. The monograms meant they were somehow "personalized."

Monograms date back thousands of years. Some of the earliest ones can be found on coins (from around 350 BC). From "Monograms -- A Brief History":

From the days of Charlemagne through the late 1600s, a monogram was a symbol of the powerful. Royalty and military leaders used their initials to form a personal brand to remind others of their position and influence in society. Monograms were used to authenticate official documents, mark government buildings, and to identify objects belonging to the ruler in power. In the 18th and 19th centuries, economic growth and the aesthetic trends of the Victorian Era, combined with the development of America, created new groups of prosperous people who had social aspirations to adorn their personal and household possessions. Monogramming came in and out of popular culture throughout the 20th century. The popularity of personalization often reflected the global political and economic climate. Before World War II, monograms were popular and harmonious with many homemaking and personal style trends. It was essential to have your clothing and accessories monogrammed, especially in the early 1900s and again in the 1920s, a time of great prosperity. After World War II, monogramming reemerged as an important symbol of the 1950s and 1960s, representing a woman’s performance as both housewife and mother.

Monograms remain popular, but they are much more accessible today. (Digital content doesn't require engraving or sewing or the like. And one needn't sew or engrave initials on something yourself. You can readily buy objects with names and initials already on them.)

"Pre-personalized" or perhaps more accurately "mass personalized." It's the latter, perhaps, that one can link to personalization and the Internet.

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Audrey Watters

Writer. Troublemaker.