Esther Howland: Mother of the American Valentine

Ehowland Esther Howland (1828-1904)

I learned of Esther this week as I was researching the history of Valentine's Day, and have come to see her work as the 1800's version of today's handmade cards.  I thought I would share a little about her with you.

Esther Howland Valentine After receiving an intricate English Valentine in 1847, she decided to try her hand at making some herself.  She began to work with paper, lace, "scraps," ribbons, etc. (sound familiar) to create detailed and ornately romantic valentines, that she sold through her father's stationery store in Worcester, Massachusets.  When her brother first offered them to customers on one of his sales trip, he came back with $5,000 worth of order for her, and she had to enlist three of her friends to help her make the cards, assembly-line style. Thus the Valentine Card industry was launched in the United States. 

Esther was a formidable business woman.  Her cards became popular symbols for the expression of love, beauty, and cherished relationships. "They became the incredible heritage of a woman who changed the way LOVE is celebrated in America."  ( 

Click on the photos for a larger view

Esther Howland Valentine Howland17










May the spirit of this amazing artist and business woman inspire all of us in our cardmaking and business endeavors as we celebrate Valentines Day and throughout the year!


2 Responses to Esther Howland: Mother of the American Valentine

  1. Susan Carlson February 11, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Thank you for sharing that piece of history. Esther was an amazing woman!

  2. Mary (aka Muffin's Mama) February 11, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Thanks for the interesting “rest of the story.” Don’t we all wish we had a brother like Esther out there getting orders for us! TFS! and Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Sage.

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