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Valentines In the U.S. — All of it Started Here

Worcester, MA, the as soon as-bustling industrial metropolis forty five minutes west of Boston, the place I dwell, is enormously pleased with its moderately peculiar checklist of “famous firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the beginning control pill, the primary excellent game in major league baseball, the primary liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon (starring in a soon-to-be revealed tell-all book “The Saga of Smiley”, printed by the Worcester Historical Museum and written by me.

Garment-Dyed Cotton Tracksuit In Olive GreenAnd yearly, about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the first commercial valentines in this nation thanks to a foresighted younger girl named Esther Howland, identified 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 acquired a frilly English valentine that inspired her to ask her father to order supplies from England in order that she may assemble her own. She then satisfied her brother, a salesman for the corporate, to point out a few of her valentines on his gross sales rounds.

The initial demand for her valentines was overwhelming and Esther gathered a few of her friends to assist her assemble the valentines, seating them around a protracted desk on the third floor of her home. The corporate was eventually earning $100,000 — a phenomenal success.

Esther is considered significant as a result of, in keeping with historians, she was among the primary commercially successful girls overseeing a feminine-run enterprise, 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, one thing you had to hunt for. She had her workers mark the back of every valentine with a pink “H”.

Within the Victorian period, Valentines were wildly in style and the flowery cards had been scrutinized for clues — even the place of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Usually the valentine was intended as a marriage proposal.

“The final week has been a merry one in Amherst, & notes have flown around like snowflakes. Ancient gentlemen & spinsters, forgetting time & multitude of years, have doffed their wrinkles – in change for smiles…”

In 1879 — after 30 years in business–Esther merged with Edward Taft, the son of Jotham Taft, a North Grafton valentine maker. Collectively they formed the new England Valentine Co. (and their cards had been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

This is where Esther Howland’s title of “Mother of the Valentine” begins to get just a little shaky.
It appears, upon much examine, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village close to Worcester, began the commercial valentine enterprise in the U.S. even before Miss Howland did, however he didn’t prefer to talk about it because the Taft family were strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mother sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure — I reside in North Grafton, a few stone’s throw from where Taft worked.)

In 1836, Jotham Taft married Sarah E. Coe of Rhode Island and two years later they welcomed twin sons. However in 1840, one of the twins died immediately, leaving Mrs. Taft prostrate with grief. Jotham determined to take his spouse and surviving son to Europe with him on a buying journey for the stationer who employed him, and whereas in Germany, he purchased many valentines supplies — laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.

When he returned, Taft started making valentines with his wife’s assist, and in 1844–three years earlier than Esther Howland graduated from college–he opened a valentine “manufacturing facility” in North Grafton (then referred to as New England Village.) But due to his mother’s disapproval, Taft by no means put his own identify on the valentines — only “Wood” (his center name) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft trained Elizabeth Howland as one in all his employees before she opened her own factory

Taft and Howland merged into the brand new England Valentine Co. in 1879 and a yr later, Esther’s father turned in poor health and she left her business to care for him. After he died, she moved in with one of her brothers and she passed away in 1904.

Unfortunately, despite all the couples who presumably found their true love thanks to Esther’s creations, the “Mother of the Valentine” never married.

In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the combined business of Taft and Howland and it turned The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine production for many years. As a substitute of playing cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and ultimately added postcards in the 1890’s. The designs, featuring kids who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” youngsters, had been wildly popular, although more typically exchanged by youngsters than adult lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney manufacturing facility closed, on account of wartime paper shortages

(The valentines above, from my collection, are German and English-made — sadly not by Howland or Taft.)

Earlier on Huff/Post50: Photograph GALLERY
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14 Bold Amateurs
Valentines Within the U.S. — It all Started Here

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Ben Franklin
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