With scissors and glue, a mushy missive is born By Bob Karolevitz You might know it was a woman who started the fancy Valentine card industry in the United States.
The Hallmark people ought to erect a statue honoring Miss Esther Howland, a Massachusetts spinster, because she was responsible for today's zillion dollar business.
Actually the British were already exchanging mushy missives more than a century and a half ago when Esther's father, a prosperous Worchester stationer, gave her one of the frilly cards he'd imported from England. That was in 1847 when she was a senior at what became Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.
Esther was thrilled by the thoughtful parental gesture, of course; but being of a creative nature, she decided she could make Valentines even gaudier than the British kind. With pastepot and shears, she produced a couple dozen handmade samples for her brother, a traveling salesman, to take on the road.
The results were phenomenal. Everywhere he went, dealers placed orders for the elegant cards. All of a sudden his sister was faced with production problems. She was up to it, though, and before long she had developed an assembly line of ladies making the delicate creations of colored paper, ruffles, lace, ribbons and feathers. For glitter, she used powdered colored glass.
Her Valentines were expensive, costing anywhere from $5 to $30, but price apparently was no object for 19th century swains and husbands to send elaborate love notes to their sweethearts. Esther, who never married, made a small fortune out of the romantic inclinations of others.
I don't know what eventually happened to the Valentine entrepreneur after she sold out in 1881, but today Howland cards are avidly sought by collectors, so her legacy lives on.
All of which brings me around to my original thought. If Esther could do it, so can I. This year I'm going to make a card for Phyllis which will rival anything the Worchester lady designed.
I've got sheets of red velour, paper doilies, Christmas ribbons and silver and gold sparkly stuff. I've practiced cutting out hearts and cupids, and all I've got to do now is paste everything together with Elmer's Glue.
I'm still working on the verse, although I've already written several to choose from.
Roses are red;
Jonquils are yellow.
I'd like to be
Your steady fellow.
All kinds of shivers
Go up my spine,
To think you'd be
Roses are red;
Azaleas are, too.
This Valentine means
That I love you!
I'm glad Esther Howland gave me the idea. But I've got to remember to tell Phyllis to save my masterpiece (if I get it done) because in a hundred years it might be a collector's item, too.