Sunday, February 13, 2011

Esther Howland - Mother of the American Valentine

Esther Howland, Valentine, handmade Valentines, history of the Valentine card

Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day,
and being that I am a purveyor of paper goods myself, I thought it would be fitting to do a post about Esther Howland, who is known as the "Mother of the American Valentine.

Esther was born in 1828 in Worcester, Massachusetts. After her graduation from Mount Holyoke College in 1847, at the age of 19, she received an English Valentine from a business associate of her father, who owned a large book and stationery store in Worcester. She became intrigued with the idea of creating similar Valentines, and ordered the necessary materials from England and New York. To her surprise, the demand for her handmade Valentines exceeded her expectations and outpaced her ability to make them. She enlisted friends to help her assemble them and her home-based cottage industry quickly grew into a $100,000-a-year business. Let's not forget, this was the mid-1800s and she was a woman! When she retired in 1881, she sold her business to the George C. Whitney Company.

How's that for inspiration, Etsy sellers!

Esther Howland copy
One of Esther's innovations was to slip a sheet of colored
paper placed behind the "lace" for more contrast.

EstherHowland red copy
Another of Esther's early creations

Meanwhile, I had fun making these:

Bit o Honey diptych
    Bit o Honey -- Happy Valentine's Day to my sweetie.

 Custom tailored diptych
   Custom tailored - You  were made for me.

 We They diptych
    We They -- You and me against the world.
    Happy Valentine's Day to you!

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