THE MASONRY MONTHLY
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The History of February’s Most Charming Candies
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. The birds are singing in a manic frenzy, doting romantics are plucking red roses by the fistful, and Cupid is practically blotting out the sun with a flurry of arrows.
profitable enterprise: candymaking. Over the next 60 years, the popularity of these little candies exploded, forming the basis for the New England Confectionary Company, otherwise known as Necco. As Chase’s company grew alongside his riches, his brother began to wonder how he could get in on the action. Not to be outdone, he invented his own machine in 1866, designed to print red vegetable dye onto the Necco dough and cut the candies into shapes. They were an immediate hit. People loved their witty mottos like, “MARRIED IN WHITE, YOU HAVE CHOSEN RIGHT.” In 1902, Necco began to manufacture the candies in their signature heart shape, and over time, the sayings were condensed to match their small size.
Or, at the very least, there’s a lot of candy flying off the shelves. Approximately $448 million worth of it, according to History.com. Chocolate may lead the pack in sheer poundage — 58 million pounds over the course of V-Day week, to be exact — but there’s no more iconic candy than Necco’s signature Sweethearts candies. The chalky, cheeky little buggers have been helping shy romantics articulate their aspirations for 151 years, and they’re a bona fide force of nature. These days, a staggering 8 billion Sweethearts are produced annually, at a rate of about 100,000 pounds a day. But how did these flavorless, yet eternally charming, treats come to be? In the mid-19th century, people were going crazy for apothecary lozenges called troches, small tablets made by hand with a smidgen of a medicinal substance and a dried, sugary paste. To capitalize on this trend, Boston pharmacist Oliver Chase spent hours devising a primitive machine that could cut down on the manual labor involved in manufacturing troches, expertly rolling the “dough” into tubes and chopping it into perfect wafers. Within a year or two, he’d abandoned his pharmaceutical leanings for a much more
Now, the hearts contain dozens of phrases, and they’re updated with new ones every year. Gone are the wafers reading “FAX ME.” They’ve been replaced by “TXT ME,” “#LOVE,” and “TWEET ME.” Whether you love or hate the sandy, goofy Sweethearts, it’s clear they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
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