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The ‘Mom Of The American Valentine’ By no means Married

Worcester, MA, the as soon as-bustling industrial metropolis 45 minutes west of Boston where I live, is enormously proud of its reasonably peculiar listing of “famous firsts”, together with barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the birth control pill, the primary perfect sport 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 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 profitable Worcester stationer and, in 1847, she obtained a frilly English valentine that inspired her to ask her father to order supplies from England so that she could assemble her personal. She then convinced her brother, a salesman for the company, to indicate a number of of her valentines on his sales rounds.

The preliminary demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered a few of her friends to help her assemble the valentines, seating them round a long desk on the third flooring of her home. The corporate was ultimately earning $a hundred,000–a phenomenal success.

Esther is taken into account important as a result of, based on historians, she was among the primary commercially profitable ladies overseeing a female-run enterprise, and she mainly 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 employees mark the back of every valentine with a red “H”.

Within the Victorian period, Valentines have been wildly in style, and the flowery playing cards have been scrutinized for clues–even the place of the stamp on the envelope meant one thing. Often the valentine was intended as a marriage proposal.

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

In 1879–after 30 years in business–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 playing cards had been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

This is the place Esther Howland’s title of “Mom of the Valentine” begins to get a little bit shaky.
It appears, upon a lot study, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village close to Worcester, began the business valentine enterprise within the U.S. even earlier than Miss Howland did, but he did not wish to speak about it, as a result of the Taft household have been strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mother sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure–I dwell 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 out of the blue, 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 supplies–laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.

When he returned, Taft began making valentines together with his wife’s help, and in 1844–3 years earlier than Esther Howland graduated from faculty–he opened a valentine “factory” in North Grafton (then referred to as New England Village.) But due to his mom’s disapproval, Taft never put his personal identify on the valentines–only “Wood” (his center identify) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft educated Elizabeth Howland as one among his staff earlier than she opened her own manufacturing unit.

Taft and Howland merged into the brand new England Valentine Co. in 1879, and a 12 months later Esther’s father grew to become ailing and she left her enterprise to care for him. After he died, she moved in with one of her brothers and she passed away in 1904.Unfortunately, regardless of all of the couples who presumably found their true love because of Esther’s creations, the “Mom of the Valentine” never married.

In 1881, George C. Whitney purchased the combined enterprise of Taft and Howland and it turned The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine manufacturing for many years. As a substitute of playing cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and eventually added postcards within the 1890’s. The Whitney designs, that includes kids who resembled stone island 80s the “Campbell Soup ” youngsters, had been wildly popular, although extra usually exchanged by youngsters than grownup lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney factory closed, on account of wartime paper shortages.

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