Esther Howland (1828–1904) who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, was the 1st to publish & sell commercial & mass produced Valentine cards made in the United States.
Howland was an artist & businesswoman who is responsible for popularizing Valentine's Day greeting cards in America.
Graham's American Monthly, observed in 1849 that Saint Valentine's Day had become a national holiday in the United States.
After her graduation from Mount Holyoke College in 1847, Howland received an ornate English Valentine from a business associate of her father, when she was 19 years old.
The practice of sending Valentine's cards had existed in England, long before it became popular in North America.
There is a Valentine in the British Museum in London dating from the 1400s.
Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines & lucky to be the daughter of a prosperous Massachusetts stationer, she began her business importing paper lace & floral decorations from England.
Her father operated the largest book & stationery story in Worcester, Massachusetts, & ordered supplies for her project.
She made a dozen samples, which her salesman brother added to his inventory for his next sales trip for their father's business. Hoping for $200 worth of orders, she was elated; when he returned with over $5,000 worth of business for her.
Howland employed friends to produce the large amount of cards the public clamored for, & she developed a thriving business in Worcester, Massachusetts using an assembly line.
Between 1840-1860, many sentimental, embossed, & perforated lace paper were imported from England. Howland imported lace-edged blanks from Britain, when she began her business of selling American-made Valentines.
Her valentines quickly became famous throughout the United States, & Howland was called "The Mother of the American Valentine."
Howland's business eventually grossed over $100,000 per year, a large amount of money for the middle of the 19th-century in America.
Howland finally sold the business in 1881, to the George C. Whitney Company.
Since 2001, the U.S. Greeting Card Association has been awarding an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary."
For further information on these valentines see the American History & Genealogy Project site of Mount Holyoke College History.