The Modern Valentine

by Laurel | February 14th, 2012

Esther Howland

Esther Howland

13 February 1903

The invention of the modern valentine, which burdens the mails of the United States today, is credited to Worcester, where in 1849 Miss Esther Howland began to improve upon the written and crudely printed verses that had till then served the votaries of St. Valentine. Miss Howland was a graduate of Mount Holyoke Seminary, and her father had a small bookstore and bindery. She sought to add a new feature to the business and her method is thus described: —

Miss Howland took stiff letter paper, scalloped and fringed the edges, cut heart shaped holes in the corners, glued colored pictures that came with raisins and tea and such things on this, put borders of lace paper that was used on the inside edges of fancy boxes then as today, around the pictures, and hand painted little verses on them. The valentines found ready purchasers, and soon business men in New York and other cities began to order them for the next year. Four girls were hired to assist in making the valentines. Pictures and embossed papers were bought, paper lace, tinsel and other things were secured and a big supply was made up. Enameled pictures from Germany were procured and original designs invented and ordered printed. The scissors were put aside for dies, which cut out designs with one blow.

Vintage Esther Howland Card

Vintage Esther Howland Card

It soon appeared that Miss Howland had developed a real business, and the late Sumner C. Whitney secured an in interest in her enterprise. Later it was bought by George C. Whitney, and has grown in his hands from employing 20 people to a payroll of 250. It is claimed that more sentimental valentines are made in Worcester than in all the other manufactures of the country put together. Miss Howland, who never married, has been dead for some 10 years. She surely deserves a passing thought on this day that should perpetuate her memory.

From The Springfield Republican.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Suggested Holyoke Books

Mountain Park -- The Holyoke destination we all loved.

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College, Postcard History by Donna Albino. Many Holyoke women have attended Mount Holyoke. Author also maintains an amazing MHC website based upon her personal collection.

Holyoke - Chicopee, A Perspective

Holyoke-Chicopee: A Perspective, by Ella Merkel DiCarlo. DiCarlo, a former Transcript columnist offers a fascinating compilation of her essays. Published in 1982, this out-of-print book is worth looking for in the aftermarket.


Holyoke, by Craig Della Penna. The first Holyoke book in the Arcadia series, published in 1997.

Belle Skinner Collection

Belle Skinner Collection, by Ruth Isabel Skinner. Published in 1933, this book is long out of print but copies are still available in the aftermarket.

Mitch Epstein: Family Business

Mitch Epstein: Family Business Published in 2003, available in the aftermarket. Epstein's furniture.