Mother of the American Valentine

Did you know …

In 1848, Esther Howland’s family owned a large book and stationery story in Worcester, Massachusetts. She asked her father to order lace paper and other supplies. She used paper flowers with the lace paper and colored paper to create beautiful designs for valentines. Her brother, a salesman, took a dozen sample valentines on his next sales trip.

heart-762564_960_720People loved the designs

It shocked Esther when he returned with advance orders over $5,000. She recruited help from her friends to fill the orders in a kind of all-girl assembly line. Esther designed the cards. One lady cut pictures while another created the background. Someone else added more decorations.

More cards ordered

More orders came. Esther hired more assistants to help fill them.

It becomes a booming business

Esther’s beautiful valentines became very popular. She started out in a room in her father’s house. Then she took over the third floor of the home. These seasonal cards led to a business of about $100,000.

Esther sells her successful business

When her father grew ill in 1881, Esther sold her business, George Whitney.

The Mother of the American Valentine

vintage-1171961_960_720After Esther died in 1904, a newspaper printed an article which called her “The Mother of the American Valentine.”

Today, collectors of old cards still look for her original cards with a red “H” on the back which identify Howland valentines.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Esther Howland,”, 2014/01/15

Barth, Edna. Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols, Clarion Books, 1974.

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