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All around the world, on February 14, people celebrate Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s giving your partner flowers, or just receiving candy from your parents and friends, it’s a very enjoyable festivity that happens every year. But, the real fact is that, although chocolate is very popular, conversation hearts are actually the most commonly given candy on February 14th! But what is their origin story, and why are these small hearts now so popular? 

Believe it or not, the production of conversation hearts actually came from a pharmacy! In 1847, Oliver Chase created a machine that could cut medicine into smaller pieces to create a more efficient business. When these ingredients were swapped out for sugar and flavoring, the US got the first candy-making machine. Conversation hearts are made when sugar is crushed into a fine powder, combined with flavoring, then shaped, stamped with words, and enjoyed! In fact, candy heart messages didn’t start out so short. It started with phrases like, “Married in white, you have chosen right.” Later these phrases would be abandoned for shorter, more loving thoughts like “Be Mine,” or  “XOXO.” Of course, today’s factories are much bigger, with the Necco company—which was based in my hometown of Boston until it closed in 2018—making about 8 billion of these treats per year! Now other companies like Spangler started making conversation hearts in their place.

In 2020, when the factories had more business than any other year, shipping issues resulted in a year of blank (wordless) conversation hearts. No conversations in 2020, I guess! But the future is looking bright for conversation hearts in my mind, now that there’s a digital app that can be used to send virtual hearts and messages to loved ones. The conversation heart powerhouse started by Necco was revolutionary, and they are still very popular to this day. 

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