It’s February, and you know what that means – Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
In honor of (or in disparage of) this national day of love, we decided to investigate the story behind the infamous chalky, clever, “love them or hate them” candy “Conversation Hearts.”
How Candy Hearts Started
Dating back to 1847, a Boston Pharmacist by the name of Oliver Chase was longing to enter the Lozenge Industry as these candies were trending upward in popularity. Inspired by the new wave of gadgets and tools entering America as it continued to industrialize, Chase invented a machine to roll-out and press lozenge dough into perfect disc-shaped wafers. Inadvertently, Chase created America’s first ever candy-making machine.
Chase quickly abandoned his pharmacy business to rapidly manufacture what became known as New England Confectionary Company (NECCO) wafers. With his growing company, Oliver’s brother, Daniel wanted a piece of the action as well. In 1866, he figured out a way to print words onto the very same candy wafers using vegetable dye during the cutting process.
Taking the shape of the NECCO wafers with the increasingly popular Valentine’s Day greetings created the first version of “conversation hearts” that he called “motto hearts.”
Due to the larger surface area on the round wafers, conversation hearts began with much longer phrases, as they were originally used for wedding treats before becoming a Valentine’s Day Staple:
- “Married in white, you have chosen right”
- “Married in pink, He will take to drink”
- “How long shall I have to wait? Please be considerate”
- and many more.
Although these candies were not available in heart-form until 1902, people quickly took a liking to these popular candy heart treats.
Here’s a short story on how conversation hearts were used at a Boston Party in 1911:
“Partners for the evening were found by means of candy “motto” hearts. These were broken in two, and each young lady was given a piece, but the men were obliged to hunt for theirs. As they were carefully hidden, this took some length of time and proved an excellent ‘ice breaker.’ The silly mottoes were read with laughter as the couples chose their tables.”
In order to properly celebrate the traditional Valentine candy hearts 152nd anniversary, here are some more sweet facts:
- NECCO estimates that it makes nearly 100,000 pounds of hearts each day throughout the year in preparation for Valentine’s Day.
- Approximately 8 billion hearts will be sold every year. That’s enough for everyone on the planet to have at least one (so don’t take mine).
- According to Aimee Scott, NECCO’s marketing director, ‘Sweethearts’ account for roughly 40% – or 13 million pounds – of the Valentine candy market, which is second only to chocolate.
- You can have a say! Last year, NECCO allowed for public submissions for candied heart phrases and are continuing the tradition this year.
- NECCO doesn’t take all of their submissions. Among some of their rejects:
- “Get a Pre-nup”
- “Call My Lawyer”
- If you don’t get to chow down and finish your bag this year, don’t sweat – Valentine candy hearts can keep for up to 5 years (YIKES!)
Some of this year’s sayings:
Celebrating Valentine’s Day comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re snuggling up with your S.O. with a glass of champagne or snuggled on the couch with a bag of Sweethearts celebrating your rocking and wonderful single life, we wish you the best on this Valentine’s Day and hope you learned something new!