The Whitney Valentine Company

George C WhitneyThis valentine (at the left) is shown in the display "Victorian Valentines:  From England to America" on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. It was created by the Whitney Valentine Company and is dated 1860-1875.

George Clarkson Whitney (1842-1915) began his career as an employee of Esther Allen Howland (1828-1904) making valentines.  In 1862, he signed up with the 51st Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, to fight in the Civil War.  By 1864, Whitney had been discharged from military service and joined his brother Edward and wife Lura Clark in the production of valentines.  At this  point they were advertising themselves as The Whitney Valentine Company.

By 1869, Edward left the company and George was in charge. He and his brothers ran the family business for many years.  George was aggressive and kept buying out his competitors.  For example, during the latter part of the 19th century he purchased the A. J. Fisher Company of New York and Esther Howland's New England Valentine Company of Worcester, Massachusetts.  By 1886, Whitney was producing his own paper, had machine dies, printing presses, and was mass producing valentines and other holiday cards.  He expanded his company and had branch offices in New York, Boston, and Chicago.

In the first decade of the 20th century, the Whitney Valentine Company grew to a large and properous concern, now called the George C. Whitney Company.  The style and sentiment of his cards changed dramatically.  One example is the card (shown below) which uses no paper lace and is made of paper stock or heavy cardboard.  The girl's bobbed hairstyle reflects the new century, much like the card itself.  It has a snappy greeting, "with oceans of love", rather than the sentimental poetry of the 19th century.  It bears the stamp "Whitney Made" on the back.

Every year, to celebrate Valentine's Day, we display a few examples from our collection of several hundred cards.  This year's selection of fifteen cards is on display in the museum lobby until March 5, 2014.  George C Whitney - 20th century example                                                                                                                                                                            



"Fly to me with love", Whitney Valentine Company, 1860-1875.  Gift of Naomi Keast, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A79/001/6.

"With oceans of love", George C. Whitney Company, ca. 1910.  Gift of Robert W. Clarke in memory of Barbara M. Clarke, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A94/090/1.





For Further Reading:


Shank, Barry. A Token of My Affection:  Greeting Cards and American Business Culture, New York:  Columbia University Press, 2004.

Call number: HD9839.G73 S43 2004


January at the Museum! From Antique Valentines to the Politics of Immigration. It's All Here and More!

The New Year brings fresh programming and two new exhibitions opening in the Van Gorden-Williams Library! Here's what's coming up. Remember, the Museum offers free admission and parking!

Cambodian_ElephantPot Cambodian Ceramics Demonstration
Saturday, January 17
12-2 PM

Yari Livan will demonstrate his talents as a Cambodian master ceramicist.  The sole survivor of his generation of artists trained in traditional Khmer ceramics at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, he came to Massachusetts in 2001. His work is featured in the current exhibition, “Keepers of Tradition.” Free. Snow date: Sunday, January 18.

Borjas George J. Borjas of the Kennedy School on Immigration and Economics
Saturday, January 17
2 pm

George J. Borjas, of the Kennedy School of Government, will speak on immigration policy and economics. Borjas, a Cuban immigrant and preeminent scholar in his field, examines the controversial idea that more job seekers from abroad means fewer opportunities or lower wages for native workers. This issue lies at the heart of national debate over immigration policy. Funded by the Lowell Institute. The lecture is presented in conjunction with the current exhibition "Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905-1920." Free.

 NativeAmerican_TwndBasktry Native American Twined Basketry Demonstration
Saturday, January 24
1-3 pm
Julia Marden will demonstrate the Native American art of twined basketry, or soft-form baskets made out of natural materials such as corn husks and grasses. An Aquinnah Wampanoag who learned her craft while working at Plimoth Plantation, Marden is featured in the current exhibition, "Keepers of Tradition." Free. Snow date: Sunday, January 25.

Valentine Valentines from the Kalman Collection, 1910-1920
January 31 through March 8, 2009
Romantic Valentine greetings have been popular as far back as the Middle Ages, when lovers said or sang their verses to their sweeties. Today we are most familiar with the pretty paper variety. Each year, the Van Gorden-Williams Library presents a delightful display of antique Valentines from its collection. Smiling puppies and impish cherubs, lovely maidens and heartsick gentlemen, the characters on these charming cards convey their messages of love to sweethearts of long ago. Many of the 25 cards on view stand up or feature moving parts, showing an inventiveness rarely seen in cards today.

This antique valentine collection originally belonged to Albert Kalman, who owned and managed Kimbal's Camera and Card shop in downtown Boston for 35 years. His wife, Vivienne, donated the collection in his memory. Each year, Mr. Kalman decorated his shop with these vintage cards to celebrate Valentine's Day. Visit us and carry on the tradition!

Postcard_Tunnel "A Penny for Your Thoughts: Postcards from the Golden Age, 1898-1918"
Opens January 31, 2009
In the early 1900s, when telephones and cameras were few and automobiles were limited to the well-to-do, the postcard filled a necessary and appreciated role. Costing only a penny each to send, postcards were an inexpensive way to convey short messages. Images on the cards showed American pursuits and pastimes, customs, costumes, morals, and manners. Sold everywhere--in drug stores, souvenir shops, dime stores, specialty shops and even on street corners--many postcards from this age still exist today.

In "A Penny for Your Thoughts," on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, more than 100 examples from the Golden Age will be shown, along with postcard scrapbooks. The images capture the optimism, the people, the industrialism, and the transportation of the period from 1898-1918. Visitors will see favorite tourist destinations, cityscapes, and period automobiles. They will also be able read the messages on these antique postcards. A variety of styles and subject matter will be shown, including color lithographic, photographic, novelty, and fraternal postcards.

The exhibition is drawn from gifts from Martin A. and Mildred H. Gilman and various museum purchases. Bertha Petersen, Martin A. Gilman's mother, collected many of the postcards when she lived in New Jersey and Connecticut from 1904-1917.

Postcard, 1906.  O. & W. Ry, New York. Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives. Gift of Martin A. and Mildred H. Gilman

Valentine Greetings, 1910.  Sam Gabriel, New York, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, Gift of Vivienne Kalman in memory of Albert L. Kalman