Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Esther Howland - Mother of The American Valentine

Esther Howland was born in 1828, the daughter of the owner of the largest book and stationery store in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was a contemporary of poet Emily Dickenson, attended Mt. Holyoke Women's Seminary College and graduated at 19. Shortly thereafter, she received an ornate English valentine from a business associate of her father. Said valentine sparked an idea that created an industry.

Convincing her father to order paper laces and colorful paper scraps for her from London and New York City, Esther set about creating valentines of her own. When next her brother set out on a selling trip, he took along a dozen samples of Esther's creations, which she hoped might garner some interest. The cards were popular beyond her wildest expectations, as her brother returned with $5,000 in advance sales.

Esther enlisted friends as employees, created an assembly line and manufactured hand made valentines. She ran her first ad in 1850, in her local Worcester newspaper, and developed her line of greeting cards into a business that grossed $100,000 annually. Her company continued to thrive and she eventually sold it in 1881.

Pictured are three of Esther's valentines.

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