The one item that is readily associated with Valentine's Day is the Valentine's Day card. Every shape, size, and color are available with words of love, humor, and friendship. Although Valentine's Day cards are as common as the corner grocery store, such romantic items were not always available.
A woman by the name of Esther Howland would change the way folks said "I love you."
The Queen of the Valentine
Esther Howland (1828-1904) lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. Esther's father was the owner of a store that sold various paper products and books. In February, her father stocked Valentine's Day cards to sell to his customers. Esther was of the opinion that she could create more attractive cards than those imported from Europe. In 1848 at the age of twenty, Esther decided to make her own Valentine’s Day cards. This would prove to be a lucrative source of income for Esther.
Esther Howland Hires Help
Esther’s Valentine’s Day cards sold very well in her father’s store. She eventually hired several ladies to work for her. One cut out the pictures for the valentines. Two other women pasted pictures to the cut out valentine and attached lace for added beauty.
Esther Howland's company, Howland Company, sold thousands of valentines. Her card making venture proved to be very successful. A Howland valentine would cost between $5 and $10 a piece. The more extravagant valentines would cost over $30.00. Each year, she sold thousands of Valentines. There were instances where she sold over $100,000 worth of valentines. By 1870, she had expanded her card making business to include Christmas and other occasion cards.
The 1900s and the Valentines Day Card
By the 1900s, the great interest in Valentines Day had diminished. The cost to hand produce individual cards was too high. Technology and news companies would change the card creation business.
Between 1906 and 1916, American Greetings, Hallmark, and Norcross greeting card companies were formed. These companies manufactured beautiful cards, but at an economical price. The economic cost of these mass produced cards stimulated the purchase of purchasing valentine’s day cards. Because of the low cost, children could also purchase cards.