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Valentines Within the U.S. — All of it Began Here

Worcester, MA, the once-bustling industrial metropolis forty five minutes west of Boston, the place I dwell, is enormously proud of its relatively peculiar record of “well-known firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the birth management pill, the primary perfect sport in main league baseball, the primary liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon (starring in a quickly-to-be printed inform-all e book “The Saga of Smiley”, printed by the Worcester Historic Museum and written by me.

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And every year, about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the primary business valentines in this nation because of a foresighted young woman named Esther Howland, known as the “Mom of the Valentine.”

The initial demand for her valentines was overwhelming and Esther gathered a few of her buddies to help her assemble the valentines, seating them around an extended table on the third floor of her house. The corporate was eventually earning $100,000 — a phenomenal success.

Esther is considered significant as a result of, in response to historians, she was amongst the first commercially successful girls overseeing a feminine-run enterprise, and she mainly created the assembly-line system, paying the native women “liberally”.

She introduced layers of lace, three-dimensional accordion results, and insisted that the verses be hidden inside, something you had to hunt for. She had her workers mark the again of each valentine with a crimson “H”.

Within the Victorian period, Valentines had been wildly in style and the elaborate cards had been scrutinized for clues — even the place of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Typically the valentine was supposed as a marriage proposal.

“The last 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 change for smiles…”

In 1879 — after 30 years in enterprise–Esther merged with Edward Taft, the son of Jotham Taft, a North Grafton valentine maker. Together they formed the brand new England Valentine Co. (and their cards had been marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

That is the place Esther Howland’s title of “Mother of the Valentine” begins to get a little shaky.
It seems, upon much research, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village near Worcester, started the industrial valentine business in the U.S. even before Miss Howland did, however he did not prefer to talk about it because the Taft family have been strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mother sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure — I dwell in North Grafton, about a 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. However in 1840, one of the twins died all of the sudden, leaving Mrs. Taft prostrate with grief. Jotham decided to take his spouse and surviving son to Europe with him on a buying trip for the stationer who employed him, and while in Germany, he bought many valentines supplies — laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.

When he returned, Taft started making valentines with his wife’s assist, and in 1844–three stone island blue reflective camouflage jacket years before Esther Howland graduated from college–he opened a valentine “manufacturing unit” in North Grafton (then called New England Village.) But due to his mother’s disapproval, Taft never put his personal identify on the valentines — only “Wood” (his middle name) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”. Some believed that Taft educated Elizabeth Howland as one of his workers before she opened her personal factory

Taft and Howland merged into the new England Valentine Co. in 1879 and a 12 months later, Esther’s father became ill 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 due to 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 grew to become The Whitney Co, which dominated valentine manufacturing for many years. Instead of cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and ultimately added postcards within the 1890’s. The designs, featuring children who resembled the “Campbell Soup ” youngsters, had been wildly popular, though more often exchanged by children than grownup lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney manufacturing facility closed, on account of wartime paper shortages

(The valentines above, from my collection, are German and English-made — sadly not by Howland or Taft.)

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Ben Franklin
In 1778, attempting to lift money for our revolt, Ben pranced around Paris in frontier drag–full-on Daniel Boone, coonskin cap and all–exhibiting the French what they expected to see: the self-invented American. This mummery drove John Adams to his therapy couch (aka, his letters to Abigail) the place he fumed about disgraceful “public males” ( whores). In the long run, a totally enraged Adams fled Paris, whereas Franklin carried on, eventually securing the money and alliance that received the conflict.

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