Last week I wrote a post about the history of Valentine’s Day and learned we had a “Mother of Valentine, “Esther A Howland. I found her very interesting considering she was born in a time before women basically had rights and as a result the odds were not in her favor. Despite that, Esther persevered and moved forward with her vision. Below are some of the highlights of Esther’s lifetime accomplishments below:
1828 Esther was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her parents were Southworth Allen Howland and Esther Howland.
Her Father, owned the largest stationary and bookbindery business in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Esther attended college at Mount Holyoke Academy the same time as Emily Dickinson did.
1847 Esther graduated college at the age of 19 and received a Valentine card from one of her father’s friends which was decorated with lace and cut out flowers. During this time, Valentine Day Cards were imported from Europe into the States.
Esther loved the card and thought she could do better. She talked to her father and he bought her supplies to make her own cards. She created a dozen designs.
Esther gave the samples to her brother for his next sales trip for their father’s business. She hoped for $200 in sales which would be worth around $6,380 today. But to her surprise he returned with over $5,000, worth $159,501 today.
Esther knew she couldn’t handle these orders by herself so she employed friends, primarily women who were said to have been paid liberally and had pleasant working conditions. She used a guest bedroom on the 3rd floor of her home for her new business. She set up an assembly line to create the cards and inspected each one.
1850 The Worcester Spy published the first advertisement for Esther’s Valentine Cards and she became officially known as a businesswomen.
1870 Esther incorporated her business, New England Valentine Company (N.E.V.Co).
In red ink, Esther began stamping the letter “H” and price on the back of her cards. She also included in red ink, the letters for her company “N.E.V.Co.”
Esther’s business grossed $100,000 annually the equivalent of $3,190,024 today.
Esther expanded her business and made cards for Birthdays, Christmas and New Years. She also created May Baskets and Booklets.
1866 Esther suffered a knee injury and became bound to a wheelchair.
1874 Esther moved her Valentine factory from her home to Harrington Corner.
Esther passed away in 1904 at the age of 76. Although she was considered “The Mother of Valentine” she never married.
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“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” ~ Estee Lauder
Did you ever wonder how it all got started? I mean, who came up with this idea to celebrate love on February 14th? The roots of St Valentine’s Day go back to 270 AD. I’m sure you don’t want a major history lesson so here are a few of the highlights:
Geoffrey Chaucer, an English Poet was the first person to record St Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules”
The oldest recorded Valentine was written in 1415, by Charles, Duke of Orleans. After the battle of Agincourt he was held prisoner in The Tower of London and wrote a Valentine to his wife which is now a part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.
Cupid is depicted on many Valentine Day greetings as a cute, chubby little cherub. However, his roots actually go back to the Greek God of Love, Eros.
In the mid 1800’s, friends and lovers would exchange small tokens of affection or a hand written note. By the 1900’s, printing technology improved and printed cards replaced the handmade versions from the 1800’s
In the 1840’s, Esther A Howland who became known as “The Mother of Valentine” began selling the first mass produced Valentines in the United States. Her creations were beautifully made with lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as scrap. Esther’s brother took a dozen card samples to their father’s store where she hoped to get $200 in sales. But her brother returned with over $5,000 in sales!!!
Today approximately 145 Million Valentine Day cards are sent each year making it the 2nd largest holiday to Christmas.
Below is a photo of Esther A Howland and a few of her Valentine Cards
“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” ~Judy Garland
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