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The ‘Mom Of The American Valentine’ Never Married

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Worcester, MA, the once-bustling industrial metropolis forty five minutes west of Boston where I stay, is enormously pleased with its quite peculiar listing of “well-known firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the start control pill, the primary perfect recreation in major league baseball, the first liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon.

And every year about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the primary commercial valentines in this nation due to a foresighted younger woman named Esther Howland, recognized because 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 obtained a frilly English valentine that impressed her to ask her father to order supplies from England so that she could assemble her own. She then convinced her brother, a salesman for the company, to point out a number of of her valentines on his gross sales rounds.

The initial demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered a few of her associates to assist her assemble the valentines, seating them around a protracted desk on the third floor of her dwelling. The corporate was finally earning $100,000–a phenomenal success.

Esther is considered significant as a result of, in line with historians, she was among the primary commercially successful girls overseeing a female-run business, and she basically created the meeting-line system, paying the local women “liberally”. She launched layers of lace, three-dimensional accordion effects, and insisted that the verses be hidden inside–one thing you needed to hunt for. She had her staff mark the again of each valentine with a red “H”.

Within the Victorian period, Valentines have been wildly common, and the flowery cards had been scrutinized for clues–even the position of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Often the valentine was intended as a marriage proposal.

“The final week has been a merry supreme supreme stone island camp cap black one in Amherst; notes have flown around like snowflakes. Historic gentlemen & spinsters, forgetting time & multitude of years, have doffed their wrinkles – in change 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 new England Valentine Co. (and their cards had been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

This is the place Esther Howland’s title of “Mother of the Valentine” begins to get just a little shaky.
It seems, upon much research, 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 earlier than Miss Howland did, however he did not wish to discuss 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 dwell in North Grafton, a few stone’s throw from where Taft labored.)

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

When he returned, Taft started making valentines along with his wife’s assist, and in 1844–3 years earlier than Esther Howland graduated from college–he opened a valentine “manufacturing unit” in North Grafton (then called New England Village.) But due to his mom’s disapproval, Taft never put his personal title on the valentines–only “Wooden” (his center identify) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft educated Elizabeth Howland as certainly one of his workers before she opened her own factory.

Taft and Howland merged into the new England Valentine Co. in 1879, and a yr later Esther’s father turned ailing and she left her business to care for him. After he died, she moved in with one in all her brothers and she handed away in 1904.Unfortunately, despite all of the couples who presumably discovered their true love thanks to Esther’s creations, the “Mother of the Valentine” by no means married.

In 1881, George C. Whitney purchased the combined business of Taft and Howland and it grew to become The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine manufacturing for a few years. As an alternative of cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and ultimately added postcards within the 1890’s. The Whitney designs, featuring children who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” youngsters, had been wildly widespread, although more usually exchanged by youngsters than grownup lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney manufacturing unit closed, because of wartime paper shortages.

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