This 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.
"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