Who is Esther Howland, and Why Should You Care?

If you're a cardmaker, then you should definitely care who Esther Howland is!  I wrote a blog post about her a couple years ago, and she is such an important figure in the world of cardmaking, I thought I'd tell you about her again.  Esther is known as the Mother of the American Valentine.  She is the cardmaker's ancestor.

Esther Howland, (1828-1904)

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.

She sold them 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." 

"Designing and creating these memorable missives required artistry and inspiration, as well as a touch of magic. The finished products evoked fantasy and romance, and set a trend for more than thirty years. While other manufacturers competed for the affection of the public, none could compete with the quality, taste, and style of Esther Howland. While she was not the first to create Valentines in America, she is credited with having popularized the lace Valentine, and propelling it into a major industry. The accolade, "The Mother of the American Valentine" – first used in a newspaper article shortly after her death – places her deep within the heart of each of us, for Valentine's Day has become an integral aspect of our culture."  (www.victoriantreasury.com)

           (Click on imge for larger view)

Given my obsession with lacy, girly, and highly embellished cards, I feel an affinity for Esther, as well as a great deal of gratitude.  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 other occasions throughout the year. 

Happy Valentines Day!  As a cardmaker you should care who Esther Howland is, for our roots go back to her vision and her persitance in pursuing that vision.