The ‘Mother Of The American Valentine’ Never Married
Worcester, MA, the once-bustling industrial metropolis forty five minutes west of Boston where I stay, is enormously pleased with its moderately peculiar checklist of “famous firsts”, together with barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the birth management pill, the first perfect recreation in major league baseball, the first liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon.
And yearly about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the first commercial valentines in this country due to a foresighted younger lady named Esther Howland, recognized because the “Mom 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 received a frilly English valentine that impressed her to ask her father to order supplies from England in order that she might assemble her own. She then satisfied her brother, a salesman for the corporate, to show a number of of her valentines on his gross sales rounds.
The initial demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered some of her buddies to assist her assemble the valentines, seating them round a protracted table on the third floor of her residence. The company was eventually earning $a hundred,000–a phenomenal success.
Esther is considered vital because, in response to historians, she was amongst the primary commercially successful women overseeing a female-run business, and she principally created the assembly-line system, paying the native 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 workers mark the back of every valentine with a purple “H”.
Within the Victorian period, Valentines had been wildly in style, and the frilly cards were scrutinized for clues–even the position of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Usually the valentine was supposed as a marriage proposal.
“The final 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 exchange for smiles…”
In 1879–after 30 years in enterprise–Esther Howland merged with Edward Taft, the son of Jotham Taft, a North Grafton valentine maker. Collectively they formed the brand new England Valentine Co. (and their cards had been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)
That is the place Esther Howland’s title of “Mother of the Valentine” begins to get a little bit shaky.
It seems, upon much examine, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village near Worcester, began the industrial valentine business in the U.S. even before Miss Howland did, but he did not like to talk about it, as a result of the Taft household were strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mom sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure–I reside in North Grafton, a couple of stone’s throw from the place Taft worked.)
In 1836, Jotham Taft married Sarah E. Coe of Rhode Island and two years later, they welcomed twin sons. But in 1840, one of many twins died immediately, leaving Mrs. Taft prostrate with grief. Jotham determined 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 bought many valentines provides–laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.
When he returned, Taft began making valentines with his spouse’s assist, and in 1844–3 years before Esther Howland graduated from school–he opened a valentine “manufacturing facility” in North Grafton (then referred to as New England Village.) But because of his mother’s disapproval, Taft by no means put his personal name on the valentines–solely “Wood” (his middle name) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft skilled Elizabeth Howland as one in every of his employees earlier than she opened her own manufacturing unit.
Taft and Howland merged into the new England Valentine Co. in 1879, and a yr later Esther’s father grew to become ill and she left her enterprise to care Stone Island Vests for him. After he died, she moved in with one in every of her brothers and she handed away in 1904.Unfortunately, despite all the couples who presumably found their true love due to Esther’s creations, the “Mother of the Valentine” never married.
In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the mixed business of Taft and Howland and it turned The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine production for a few years. As an alternative of cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and eventually added postcards in the 1890’s. The Whitney designs, that includes kids who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” children, have been wildly common, although more usually exchanged by children than adult lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney factory closed, on stone island womens tracksuit account of wartime paper shortages.