The History Of Conversation Hearts

by Sara Levine

Valentine's Day is coming up, and there's nothing that says Valentine's Day more than conversation hearts. Yes, even chocolate. Those chalky pieces of sugar and food coloring just can't be used for any other holiday. That would be wrong. Love them or hate them, these candies are an integral part of Valentine's Day — and believe it or not, they've actually been around a long time. The history of conversation hearts is quite a long one, but I'll do my best to keep it relatively short and sweet.

In the name of honesty, I'll admit that I am not a fan of conversation hearts (if you couldn't tell by my previously describing them as "chalky"). These heart-shaped pieces of sugar, corn starch, corn syrup, gelatin, and food coloring have no flavor. They are not particularly enjoyable to eat. Yeah, they can have cheeky phrases on them, but really, is it worth it? Although I would vehemently disagree, the answer for many people is a resounding yes — at least, that's the only justification I can provide for the fact that these sad excuses for candy have been around for 151 years. 151 years! That's not a typo! These things have been around for a ridiculously long time.

Way back in the 1800s, The New England Confectionary Company debuted their "motto hearts," which today we call "conversation hearts." They were inspired by a cool trend at the time called "cockles," a shell-like cookie that had phrases on paper rolled up and hidden inside. It was a precursor to the fortune cookie, which I'm honestly surprised to learn hasn't been around since the dawn of time. Anyway, Daniel Chase, the brother of the founder of The New England Confectionary Company, had the bright idea to print words directly onto the candy and cut them into different fun shapes. At the time, those included horseshoes, baseballs, and even watches, though it's unclear when exactly the company decided to just stick with hearts.

Original phrases included things like "Be Good," "Kiss Me," and the super fun and not at all sexist, "Married in Pink, he will take to drink," and "Married in white, you have chosen right." According to the Huffington Post, it wasn't until the late 90s that the company began to update the phrases on their candy hearts. To get with the times, they included super relevant things like "Fax Me."

So there you have it. These things have been around forever, and likely aren't going anywhere anytime soon, especially now that they can keep updating the phrasebook to include modern sayings like "Text Me" and "Netflix and Chill." The latter isn't on a NECCO candy yet, but I'd say give it a few years.