Window On Your Past

Esther Allen Howland, mother of the American valentine, Worcester, MA (1828-1904)

                                             Forget me not, I only ask

                                             This single boon of thee

                                             And let it be an easy task

                                             Sometimes to think of me.

                                                        New England Valentine Company, Teacher’s Guide

For almost one hundred years, Worcester was the Valentine-making capital of the United States.  Esther was the first American to create and sell her own innovations, and was the first assembly-line producer of high quality lacy valentines.

Esther Howland was born and lived at 16 Summer Street.  After her graduation from Mount Holyoke College in 1847, she received her first English valentine and became fascinated with the idea of making valentines in America.  Operating in her home with friends as her assembly-line labor force, she eventually grossed $100,000 annually. She sold her business to the George C. Whit Company when is retired in 1881.


Connelly Cook, Lisa. “Esther Howland and the Business of Romance.” Worcester Review. February 2003. Available at Worcester Historical Museum.

Dutton, Jane. “Romantic Lady: The Story of Esther Howland”. 1993.  Available at Worcester Historical Museum.

Emotions Greeting Card Museum.  “Esther Howland, 1828-1904”. (2003)

Feingold, Norma. Woman’s Work: The Worcester Experience, 1830-1916. Worcester Historical Museum, 1986.

Lee, Ruth Webb. A History of Valentines. Wellesley, MA: Lee Publications, 1952.

“Made First Valentine in United States: Miss Esther Howland of Quincy Tells How She Built Up a Big Business–Oldest Valentine Known”. Boston Daily Globe 14 Feb 1901:6.

“Miss E. A. Howland Dies in Quincy”. Boston Daily Globe 16 Mar 1904:6.

“Pioneer Career Woman and her Valentines” Chapter I through “They Knew Her When” IV Chapter. Series of reprints at Worcester Historical Museum.

Rothman, Ellen K. Hearts and Hands:  A History of Courtship in America.   New York: Basic Books, 1984.

Staff, Frank. The Valentine and its Origins.  New York: Praeger, 1969.

Worcester’s Valentine-Making History:A Teacher’s Guide (grades 3-6). Worcester Historical Museum.