That fond affection lives for me,
Oh, could I once delighted share,
The sweet return of love from thee.
marked NEVCO 35
His wing is the fan of a lady.
His foot's an invisible thing;
And his arrow is tipped with a jewel,
And shot from a silver string.
small printed verse for use in a valentine
Paper Lace is by Berlin and Jones
pasted in verse is marked Howland
But I need not tell you this,
For few have borne unconsciously
The spell of loveliness.
Esther Howland is often credited as the first US manufacturer of valentines. This is not quite true as there were others making valentines, including commercial efforts like Elton & Co and T. W. Strong both of NY, that predate her 1849 beginnings. Those companies' valentine endeavors date to 1833 and 1842, respectively. She was,however, the first to make the English-style romantic, hand-decorated cards in a large commercial quantity and probably the first to achieve such an astounding initial success as a valentine maker.
Paper Lace is by Wood
back is marked: N. E. V. Co. 5
Most of her cards are believed to have been marked, however not all were. A red letter 'H' was often stamped on the card back. Another style of marking was a small white heart with an 'H' stamped in the center which was pasted on the back. Some later cards bear the New England Valentine Co mark (N.E.V.Co.) she began using in the 1870s. Our top example does not bear a red 'H' nor a N.E.V.Co. mark and has a paper lace front with a Berlin and Jones mark on it. That company was based in New York and eventually bought up in 1869 by George C. Whitney and Co who also purchased Ms. Howland's N.E.V.Co sometime before 1881.
Berlin and Jones is a company Howland is known to have worked with (as well as Taft, another Worcester valentine maker). When Howland utilized 'blanks' purchased from other makers they often had that maker's mark (seen in the left side margin of the front in both of our examples), often in addition to her own. So cards may have more than one mark, or occasionaly, none at all. Then it can often still be identified as the work of Ms. Howland by looking for other markers like the presence of her 'wafer' decorations or pasted in verse. However, some early Whitney cards are very similar (these were generally marked with a red 'W' employed very much like Howland's red 'H'.) Early cards by the two different makers can be hard to distinguish if no mark was used.
There is also a booklet of verses, The New England Valentine Co.'s Valentine Verse Book for 1879, that was sent to sellers of her valentines. It contained verses printed in red, green, gold and blue and were intended for the buyer who may find a card they like but with a verse that was not suitable. A more appropriate verse could be chosen from the book, cut out and then pasted over the original one appearing in the card.
After selling her business to the George C. Whitney Co., Ms. Howland cared for her ailing father until his death in 1882. After his passing, she moved on to Quincy to be with her brother Charles. There she died on March 15, 1904. Much hay has been made of Ms. Howland's 'spinster' status noting the irony of someone who made their name in creating tokens of love remaining unmarried. In my research I've found nothing speaking of her private life beyond her devotion to her father. Any affairs of the heart Ms. Howland may or may not have had remain a mystery.
That oaths are as short as a kiss;
I'll love you as long as i'm able,
And swear for no longer than this.
paper lace marked Ingram Old St London
likely Herbert or William Ingram's printing company
They also published The Illustrated London News
Red 'H' mark (see close-up below) on back
and the Ingram mark suggest this is an earlier card.
Herbert Ingram was in London as early the 1840s. William continued the business after his father's untimely death in 1860. By the 1870s, Howland was using the NEVCO mark.
Charles Nutt - History of Worcester and Its People
Ernest Dudley Chase - The Romance of Greeting Cards
Katherine Kreider - Valentines with Values
Barbara Johnson, Ph. D. - Valentines A Collector's Guide 1700s - 1950s
Robert Brenner - Valentine Treasury A Century of Valentine Cards