The ‘Mom Of The American Valentine’ By no means Married
Worcester, MA, the as soon as-bustling industrial metropolis forty five minutes west of Boston the place I stay, is enormously pleased with its rather peculiar list of “famous firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the start management pill, the primary good sport in main league baseball, the primary liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon.
And every year about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the first commercial valentines in this nation due to a foresighted younger lady named Esther Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine.”
Esther Howland (1828-1904) attended Mount Holyoke at the same time as Emily Dickinson. She was the daughter of a successful Worcester stationer and, in 1847, she acquired a frilly English valentine that inspired her to ask her father to order supplies from England in order that she could assemble her own. She then satisfied her brother, a salesman for the company, to point out a couple of of her valentines on his sales rounds.
The initial demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered some of her associates to help her assemble the valentines, seating them around a long table on the third floor of her home. The company was eventually earning $100,000–a phenomenal success.
Esther is considered significant because, based on historians, she was amongst the primary commercially successful ladies overseeing a feminine-run business, and she basically created the meeting-line system, paying the local women “liberally”. She introduced layers of lace, three-dimensional accordion effects, and insisted that the verses be hidden inside–something you had to hunt for. She had her staff mark the back of each valentine with a purple “H”.
Within the Victorian period, Valentines were wildly popular, and the elaborate cards were scrutinized for clues–even the position of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Often the valentine was supposed as a marriage proposal.
“The last week has been a merry one in Amherst; notes have flown round like snowflakes. Historical gentlemen & spinsters, forgetting time & multitude of years, have doffed their wrinkles – in alternate for smiles…”
In 1879–after 30 years in business–Esther stone island grey cardigan Howland merged with Edward Taft, the son of Jotham Taft, a North Grafton valentine maker. Together they formed the brand new England Valentine Co. (and their cards have been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)
That is where Esther Howland’s title of “Mom of the Valentine” begins to get a little shaky.
It seems, upon much study, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village near Worcester, started the industrial valentine enterprise within the U.S. even earlier than Miss Howland did, however he did not wish to speak about it, as a result of the Taft family were strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mother sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure–I live in North Grafton, about a stone’s throw from the place Taft labored.)
In 1836, Jotham Taft married Sarah E. Coe of Rhode Island and two years later, they welcomed twin sons. However in 1840, one of many twins died instantly, leaving Mrs. Taft prostrate with grief. Jotham decided to take his wife and surviving son to Europe with him on a buying trip for the stationer who employed him, and whereas in Germany, he purchased many valentines provides–laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.
When he returned, Taft started making valentines together with his spouse’s help, and in 1844–3 years before Esther Howland graduated from college–he opened a valentine “factory” in North Grafton (then called New England Village.) However due to his mom’s disapproval, Taft by no means put his personal title on the valentines–solely “Wooden” (his center title) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft skilled Elizabeth Howland as one in every of his workers earlier than she opened her personal manufacturing unit.
Taft and Howland merged into the brand new England Valentine Co. in 1879, and a yr later Esther’s father turned sick and she left her business to care Stone Island Vests for him. After he died, she moved in with certainly one of her brothers and she handed away in 1904.Sadly, regardless of all of the couples who presumably discovered their true love due to Esther’s creations, the “Mom of the Valentine” by no means married.
In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the combined business of Taft and Howland and it became The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine manufacturing for a few years. As an alternative of playing cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and ultimately added postcards in the 1890’s. The Whitney designs, featuring children who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” kids, were wildly popular, though extra usually exchanged by youngsters than grownup lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney manufacturing unit closed, as a result of wartime paper shortages.