{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/inside_adams.php' }

Cockles, Motto Lozenges, and Sweethearts

NECCO Sweethearts. Photography by J. Harbster

I was recently at a dinner party where the gracious hostess embellished the dining room table with Sweethearts, also known as Conversation Hearts and Sweet Talks. As you can imagine, the guests questioned the history of these sweethearts and turned to me for an answer. I promised that when I returned to the Library that I would investigate the history of these infamous Valentine Day candies.

As many of you may know, today’s Sweethearts were made famous by the New England Confectionary Company, better known as NECCO. NECCO has been manufacturing the Sweethearts brand since 1902, but these treats trace their origins back to the 19th century and maybe even further.

Chase & Company Advertisement, Confectioners’ Journal, January 1890

Before joining NECCO, Chase and Company (later known as Chase Candy Company) manufactured lozenges made of gum Arabic, peppermint, and brown sugar. Oliver Chase, founder of Chase and Company, was an enterprising lozenge maker who sold his wares to apothecary shops. In 1847 he invented an automatic lozenge cutter machine, which greatly increased his production, and he soon joined the confectionary business.

In 1866 Oliver’s brother Daniel devised a machine with a felt roller pad moistened with coloring that pressed against a die. This die would print the mottos right on the lozenges. These became known as motto lozenges or conversation candies. The British also developed motto lozenges by pressing the candy into molds.

The idea of putting messages with candy can also be traced back to cockles, a small crisp candy typically shaped like a scallop shell, in which mottoes printed on paper were enclosed.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes of cockles in the 1871 Twice Told Tales

 …and those little cockles, or whatever they are called, much prized by children for their sweetness, and much more for their mottoes, which they enclose, by love-sick maids and bachelors (p. 10).

Today NECCO manufactures about 80% of Sweethearts, which feature over a hundred different sayings. Back in 1997/98 NECCO made headline news when they introduced new sayings such as “Awesome,” “Email me,” “Fax Me,” and “Page me.” According to the NECCO Website, they have retired all their previous sayings and replaced them with submissions from the public.

If you are interested in tracing the history of candy manufacturing in the U.S., the Library has a rich collection of trade magazines such as Confectioner and Baker, Confectioner Gazette, Confectioners Journal for Candy Manufacturers, and Confections: the National Magazine of the Confectionary Trade. Not only do these trade magazines give you a history of candy manufacturing, but you can also use these volumes to trace the history of the sugar trade in the U.S. Another helpful guide that might interest you is American Confections: Selected Titles on the Art of Confectionary 1825-1938.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

One Comment

  1. Sara Wade
    February 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Such a brilliant woman to have found this tasty information.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.