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The ‘Mother Of The American Valentine’ Never Married

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Worcester, MA, the as soon as-bustling industrial metropolis 45 minutes west of Boston where I stay, is enormously pleased with its somewhat peculiar list of “famous firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the start control pill, the primary excellent 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 primary industrial valentines in this country because of 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 profitable Worcester stationer and, in 1847, she acquired a frilly English valentine that impressed her to ask her father to order materials from England in order that she might assemble her personal. She then satisfied her brother, a stone island houston salesman for the corporate, to point out a couple of of her valentines on his gross sales rounds.

The preliminary demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered a few of her pals to help her assemble the valentines, seating them around a protracted desk on the third ground of her residence. The corporate was finally earning $a hundred,000–a phenomenal success.

Esther is taken into account vital as a result of, based on historians, she was among the first commercially profitable ladies overseeing a female-run enterprise, and she mainly created the meeting-line system, paying the local girls “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 each valentine with a purple “H”.

In the Victorian era, Valentines had been wildly standard, and the flowery playing cards have been scrutinized for clues–even the place of the stamp on the envelope meant one thing. Usually the valentine was intended as a marriage proposal.

“The final week has been a merry one in Amherst; notes have flown round like snowflakes. Historic gentlemen & spinsters, forgetting time & multitude of years, have doffed their wrinkles – in alternate 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. Together they formed the new England Valentine Co. (and their cards have been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

That is where Esther Howland’s title of “Mom of the Valentine” begins to get a bit of shaky.
It seems, upon a lot research, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village close to Worcester, started the business valentine business within the U.S. even earlier than Miss Howland did, however he didn’t prefer to discuss it, because the Taft family had been strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mom 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. But in 1840, one of many twins died out of the blue, 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 whereas in Germany, he bought many valentines supplies–laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.

When he returned, Taft began making valentines along with his spouse’s help, and in 1844–3 years before Esther Howland graduated from faculty–he opened a valentine “manufacturing facility” in North Grafton (then referred to as New England Village.) But because of his mom’s disapproval, Taft by no means put his own identify on the valentines–only “Wooden” (his middle title) 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 year later Esther’s father grew to become sick and she left her business to care for him. After he died, she moved in with one among her brothers and she passed away in 1904.Sadly, despite all the couples who presumably found their true love because of Esther’s creations, the “Mother of the Valentine” by no means married.

In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the mixed business of Taft and Howland and it became The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine production for a few years. As an alternative of playing cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and finally added postcards in the 1890’s. The Whitney designs, featuring youngsters who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” kids, had been wildly in style, although extra typically exchanged by youngsters than grownup lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney manufacturing facility closed, as a result of wartime paper shortages.

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