Candy Hearts: A Civil War-era Confection?

USPS04STA005In 2004, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 37-cent Love stamp that featured two candy hearts. Boxes of the popular treats are typically exchanged on Valentine’s Day. In fact, the tradition has been around for longer than you might think.

In 2010, Louise McCready of Bon Appetit magazine chronicled the history of Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, which the New England Confectionery Company—known by most as NECCO—began selling in the 1800s:

Originally called “motto hearts,” their precursor was a trendy fortune cookie-like treat sold during the Civil War called a “cockle,” which had printed phrases rolled up inside its scallop-shaped shell. Printing words directly on the candy was the bright idea of Daniel Chase, the brother of NECCO’s founder. He also invented the machine that both pressed red vegetable coloring on the candy dough and cut the shapes.

Over the years, the messages on the hearts have evolved—but the classics remain:

Many of the original sayings, like “Be Good,” “Be True,” and “Kiss Me,” are still printed, but NECCO began to update its lexicon in the late 90’s with hearts that said “Call Me,” “Fax Me,” and “Email Me.” Last year’s new phrases were all food related, from “Recipe 4 Love,” to “Top Chef.” And while it used to be impossible to find the candy hearts during any other time of the year, in March of 2009 NECCO produced Twilight-themed candy hearts, with sayings like “I heart EC,” “Lion and Lamb,” “Bite Me,” “Dazzle” and “Live 4 Ever.”

How popular are Sweethearts Conversation Hearts? According to McCready, about 100,000 pounds of them are sold every day between January 1 and Valentine’s Day.

New Stamps Encourage Us All to Be Physically Active

Run! Jump! Leap! Spin! Climb! Today we reveal a set of 15 stamps that encourages young Americans—and the adults in their lives—to be physically active.

JustMove-Forever-pane15-v3Each of the 15 stamps features a different child engaged in one of 15 activities: skipping rope, juggling, bouncing a ball, performing a cartwheel, kicking a soccer ball, playing basketball, skateboarding, twisting in the air, playing baseball, stretching, running, performing a head stand, jumping into water, climbing a rope, and swinging.

Whew. We’re tired . . . and exhilarated!

The action words on the stamps invite children to participate in all the activities shown and remind us all that children and adults need regular physical activity. Artist Eli Noyes’s illustrations wonderfully capture the fun and playful spirit of this message.

The Just Move! stamps will be issued in a sheet of 15 self-adhesive Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate. A release date has not yet been set.

Love Letters from the President

If you think of Harry Truman only as the president who was sworn in after Franklin D. Roosevelt suddenly died, it might surprise you to find out that he was also a devoted writer of love letters. When Bess Truman died in 1982, more than 1,200 letters from her husband were discovered in her house. “Dear Bess,” they usually begin.

Composed over a period of nearly 50 years, the handwritten letters contain flashes of humor (“I am very glad you liked the book. I liked it so well myself I nearly kept it.”) as well details of everyday life (“I’ll leave for the farm in a few minutes because the room at home has wet paint on the floor.”).

love letters

The two Love stamps issued in 2001 feature actual letters to and from another American statesman: John Adams. Although Adams and his wife Abigail spent significant time apart during their long relationship, they kept their bond strong by writing letters to one another.

Even while writing about momentous events, Truman had an affection for his wife that comes through clearly in his letters. On May 7, 1933, he wrote, “Tomorrow I’ll be forty nine and for all the good I’ve done the forty might as well be left off,” but continues, “I still believe that my sweetheart is the ideal woman.” He ends the letter, “I’m counting the days till I see you.”

From a momentous meeting with Stalin and Churchill near Berlin in July 1945, Truman wrote something about the Potsdam Conference that the world never would have guessed. “It made me terribly home sick when I talked with you yesterday morning. It seemed as if you were just around the corner, if 6,000 miles can be just around the corner. I spent the day after the call trying to think up reasons why I should bust up the Conference and go home.”

If you’d like to see some of President Truman’s love letters in person, you could travel to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. A faster way to get a peek at a love letter would be to write one of your own. As the Truman letters show, love letters turn into treasured possessions. And who knows where your words might end up in the future?

Who Will Be Your Valentine? 2013 Love Stamp Now Available

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and the 2013 Love stamp is the perfect way to adorn cards and letters to your loved ones.

Evoking the romance of a bygone era, the Sealed with Love stamp depicts an envelope fastened with an elegant wax seal that recalls the joy and beauty of handwritten love letters. The exquisite delicacy of the stamp art invites us to send our own love letters, a romantic gesture that never goes out of style.

SealedwithLove-2013-Forever-single-BGv2Love letters have a long history, but the Victorians were among the most ardent letter writers and believed there was a proper way to compose letters, particularly love letters. Etiquette manuals aided Victorian romantics in penning appropriate letters to their beloveds. While these books reflected the Victorian obsession with propriety, the senders still wished to make their feelings known, and there was a precise etiquette for using sealing wax. Although today red is the color most associated with passion, in the mid-1800s, blue was the color of love, with wax of various shades denoting the degree of emotion felt by the sender.

The Sealed with Love stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.)  Look for it online or at your local Post Office.

Celebrating the Art of the Valentine (and 3 Resources for a DIY Holiday)

Lace. Flowers. Hearts. Resembling handmade valentines, the two Love stamps issued in 1999 speak of elegance and romance.

Lace Love DuoValentine’s Day greetings have a long history. The oldest known valentine, now in the collection of the British Library, was written in 1415 by a French nobleman to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Americans began exchanging valentines in the early 1700s, and by the mid-19th century the first mass-produced cards had appeared.

Esther A. Howland (1828–1904)—known popularly as the “Mother of the Valentine”—is credited with creating the first cards in America specifically for Valentine’s Day. She designed the cards with ribbons, lace, and pictures, and sold them at her father’s Massachusetts stationery shop. The practice of sending cards caught on and continues to flourish today. The Greeting Card Association estimates that more than 145 million cards will be purchased in the U.S. this year in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

If you want your valentines to have a more personal touch, or if your children want to design their own cards for their friends and classmates, here are some resources to get you started:

  • Spoonful, a crafting and cooking site sponsored by Disney, features a Valentine’s Day page full of ideas for handmade cards, including an alien valentine, a colorful heart design mean to hang in a window, and even a valentine-collecting mailbox . . . with eyes!
  • Over at Better Homes and Gardens, you will find more than 30 inspiring designs. From heart banners and heart cutouts to lucky scratch-off valentines and a robot candy bar card, there is something here to excite everyone this Valentine’s Day. BH&G also has a video tutorial for making homemade cards.
  • Go beyond cards to handmade candy boxes, envelopes, and other sweet Valentine’s Day treats on Martha Stewart’s Valentine’s Day Gifts showcase. We’re quite fond of the seed-starter valentine, a gift sure to brighten up anyone’s day.

Planning to make your own valentines this year? Tell us about it in the comments and share your pictures with us!