Where did those candy hearts with words on them come from?

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Candy Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Candy hearts remembered from the ’20s

Spring Hill New Era (Spring Hill, Kansas) May 12, 1922

“… We were able to buy some candies, the like of which we had not seen since we were youngsters. Nice candy hearts with mottoes ‘I love you,’ ‘Mine only’ and ‘Will You Marry Me.’

Somehow these candy hearts did not taste so good as in the olden days when we tried to keep them as momentoes, when someone we admired had given them to us. In those days, we just had to eat them, even though it broke our hearts to do it. They were so good.”

Candy Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day
Photo by by bhofack2

Sweet candy reads ‘Sugar’, ‘Gosh’, ‘Lovelorn’ – Looking back from 1975

By Nancy Adams (Chicago Tribune, 1975)

Valentine’s Day has its own kind of graffiti. “Hug Me.” “Love Bug.” “Doll Face.”

These are the short, sweet and simple words of love that come on the candy with a message — those pastel lozenges in heart shapes with writing stamped on top. Made with a pinch of sass, more than a lump of sugar, and a dose of corn, the little sweets have become traditional for Valentine’s Day.

With the charm of alphabet soup and the mystery of fortune cookies, the talkative confection is a way for even the shyest suitors to wheedle the objects of their affections, and spell out unspoken feelings.

One might assume that some pet cherub’s poetry is used for the slogans, but usually, candy company people, including executives, share the task. “We just sat down one year, and thought up the slogans,” says Willard Seefeldt who works for the Curtiss Candy Company. “Some of the sayings have had to be changed over the years as the lingo of children has changed.”

Photo by amycounts123 via Twenty20
Photo by amycounts123 via Twenty20

Slogans change

“Like ‘Cutie Pie’ was something said in the ’20s, ’30s, or ’40s. The slogans have probably been changed about a half dozen times or more to keep up with the current vernacular. ‘Oh You Kid,’ ’23 Skiddoo,’ and the like just became too outdated.”

How round, colorful Necco Wafers candy became so popular (1920)

Nowadays, slogans are a bit more impertinent, though not exactly what could be called real sophisticated. But they are more timely, says Seefeldt, who is production manager for the Melville division of Curtiss. “Real Gone,” “Dig Me,” “Cool Cat,” and “The Most” are among the 50 or so sayings that currently adorn the Curtiss candies called “Talkie Hearts.”

Other words to make a Valentine eat are “Playtime,” “Zowie,” “Heatwave,” “Hexed,” “Natch,” “Lovelorn,” “Flame,” “Sugar,” “Gosh,” “Bashful,” and “I’ll Bite.”

Occasionally difficulties arise with the slogans. The machinery may miss and create sayings that are illegible. Or a misprint may occur. One saying, “Sweet Lass,” had to be dropped entirely because it often printed without the “L.”

Sweethearts: Updating candy heart slogans

According to a spokesman for E. J. Brach and Sons, they last updated their slogans about seven or eight years ago. “Revisions were made because certain sayings were too old fashioned. But we purposely kept a lot of old ones for nostalgia’s sake. Some are just as corny as blazes, but kids and adults love ’em.”

Sold in bulk (by the pound) as well as by the bag or by the box, the heart-shaped candy seems to offer just the right touch of pure schmaltz to Cupid’s day. “Sloppy sentimental” is how Sally White, assistant candy buyer at Marshall Field & Company, describes the feeling expressed by the wee printed candy bits.

Sweethearts vintage candy box

1965 Brach's valentines conversation hearts candy

But at about $1.25 a pound (25 cents higher than last V-Day), she still expects the Chicago area store chain to sell more than 2,400 pounds of the confection this season. The sweet-talking candy really is legitimate nostalgia, because it’s been around for a long time.

“I’ve been in the candy business for more than 44 years, and it’s been a commodity in the field for at least 50 years,” says Seefeldt.

Retro Hallmark Valentine cards from the '70s were super cute and super pink and super girly
Candy Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day
Photo by by bhofack2

Valentine’s Day sweethearts candy origin traced

Another source, the National Confectioners Association, traces the origin of the sweet-hearts back to the 185os, when candy making became more sophisticated with the development of more advanced equipment like the revolving steam pan.

“Vegetable dye is used to print the slogans on the dough, and the dough is mostly sugar with a little gelatin and syrup added to make it pliable,” according to Seefeldt.

The smaller hearts are usually called “flirtation hearts,” while the larger ones are referred to as “romance hearts,” almost as if to designate little heartthrobs or big ones.

“But they’re all called ‘conversation hearts,'” says Seefeldt. “They all have that yakkety-yak.”

Photo by umuller via Twenty20
Photo by umuller via Twenty20

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, plus see exclusive retro-inspired products in our shop. Thanks for visiting!

More stories you might like

Because the fun never ends!

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See some of our books!