Esther A. Howland was born in 1826 in Worcester, Massachusetts to Southworth Allen Howland, a stationer and bookseller. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1847. Howland began making valentines in her home in 1849 after receiving an elaborate valentine from England. Her business quickly grew, and she turned her house into a valentine factory. She sold the business to George C. Whitney in 1881. Howland is credited with establishing the commercial valentine industry in the U.S. She died at 78 in 1904 in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Marguerite A. Welcher Davol was born on July 2, 1928 in East Peoria, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Colorado in 1951 with majors in English and Education. Later she did graduate study in American literature at Kansas State University (1953-54), University of Rochester (1956-57), and University of Massachusetts (1966). Davol was a children's author, a poet and a teacher at the Mount Holyoke College Gorse Child Center from 1966-1992. She married Stephen Herbert Davol and they had three children.
Stephen Herbert Davol was born on February 16, 1928 in Malden, Massachusetts to Herbert and Mary Davol. He received a B.A. (1950) and an M.P.S. (1952) in Psychology from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. (1958) in Psychology from the University of Rochester. He was a professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College from 1960-1982. He died at 54 on July 8, 1982 in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Marjorie Eames donated the valentines in the collection in 1993. Her family's business, the Eames and Eames Company of Cohasset, Mass., made and sold hand-painted valentines.