The Business of Valentine Cards: From Howland to Hallmark

MassMoments tells us this morning that in 1849 – the first American-made Valentine cards were created and sold in Worcester, Massachusetts by Mt. Holyoke graduate Esther Howland. Modeled on the English-style Valentine, her fancy designs, embossed, cut and colored paper along with romantic sentiments and hidden messages soon grew into a thriving business. Miss Howland hired women as assemblers, advertised her product and finally moved beyond a home-based business into a downtown location. Because of Esther Howland and her entreprenurial skill –  Worcester was the “Valentine Capital of America” well into the 20th century.

On This Day...

      …in 1849, the first American-made valentines were sold in Worcester. They were designed and made by Esther Howland, the daughter of a local stationer. After graduating from Mt. Holyoke College, she returned to Worcester and began making valentines modeled on a fancy one she had received from an English friend. Her brother took the samples on a sales trip and came home with an astonishing $5,000 worth of orders. Howland began by hiring her friends to assemble the valentines; within a few years, she built her business into a $100,000 a year enterprise, a notable success for any entrepreneur but a truly remarkable accomplishment for a nineteenth-century woman.

Read the full MassMoments article here.

This valentine card was created by Esther Howland – the “Mother of  of the American Valentine.”


In 2011 – Hallmark cards creates over 1600 different Valentine card designs. Approximately 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged industry-wide (not including packaged kids’ valentines for classroom exchanges), making Valentine’s Day the second-largest holiday for giving greeting cards. 


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