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Worcester’s Valentine

Esther HowlandThe City of Worcester is known for many remarkable things, but how many people know it was home to the Mother of the American Valentine?


The Mother of the American Valentine?  Yes, and her name is Esther Howland.  Here are some interesting facts about this fascinating woman.

  • Esther Howland was born in 1828 and passed away in 1904.
  • Her ancestry can be traced back to the Pilgrims.
  • The family home was located at 16 Summer Street in Worcester.
  • Her father owned and ran a large stationery (and book) store in Worcester.
  • Ms. Howland graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1847.
  • She received a delightfully decorated English Valentine from one of her dad’s colleagues and believed she could create a similar product in America.
  • She persuaded her father to order lace and other materials for the project and designed assorted card samples.
  • Her brother brought the samples with him on his business-marketing excursion, and he returned with $5,000 worth of advanced sales orders.
  • Ms. Howland enlisted friends to help out (via assembly-line) with the great demand, and her visionary Valentine Cards became a huge success.
  • This innovative gal was not only a shrewd businesswoman but also an accomplished artist.
  • Esther Howland is not the first individual in American history to draft the American Valentine.  However, she did thrust the lacey, romantic Valentine card into unchartered waters, and the product became a type of American icon.
  • Because of Ms. Howland’s impressive ingenuity, the recognition of Valentine’s Day spread from East Coast to West.
  • Ms. Howland sold her business to George Whitney in 1881.  Many of her cards remained alive in Mr. Whitney’s patterns.
  • Even though Esther Howland became famous because of an industry that marketed love, she never married.
  • Upon her death in 1904, a news piece deemed her “The Mother of the American Valentine.


So how can you get more of Esther Howland?  Well, visit Old Sturbridge Village on February 9-10.  It is there you will learn the mesmerizing narrative of Valentines in America.  In addition, an in-depth session about chocolate making and the history of chocolate will be on hand to delight.  For additional information (such as times, cost, and WOO discounts), go to www.osv.org.


Valentine cards and chocolate?  Wow, what a sweet combination!