Ah, Valentine’s Day.
by Laurnie Wilson
It’s such a sweet time of year.
All those chocolates and sugary fixes, all packaged in adorable shapes and sizes. These days, we tend to take all the bells and whistles of the holiday for granted. How else would candy come on February 14th, than in a perfectly heart-shaped box? Well, believe it or not, this wasn’t always the case.
This Valentine’s Day, we’re hopping across the pond to take a look at the history of the heart-shaped box and the man who brought it to the world- much to every chocolate lover’s delight.
Chocolate was all the rage for the upper classes in Victorian England. It was expensive, but it was oh so good. And in the mid-1800s, John Cadbury was one of the leading cocoa and drinking chocolate traders in Birmingham, England.
An Inspired Chocolate Business
His business was heavily shaped by his Quaker beliefs, as he saw his alternatives to alcohol as a way to reduce some of the alcohol-related causes of poverty in the country. And with offerings like tea, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate, he may have been onto something!
After a decade or so of difficult times, John’s sons Richard and George took over the company in 1861. It was these two that breathed life into the business and made innovations that shaped candy culture, quite literally, the world over.
Fancy Boxes for Fancy Chocolates
In a streak of brilliance, Richard Cadbury came up with the idea to sell their ‘fancy chocolates,’ known today as assortments, in decorative little boxes. Each box had a small picture on the front, made so children could cut them out and preserve them in scrapbooks.
The boxes were works of art, and highly beloved by the late Victorians. Not only were they good for chocolates, but they could also be used as boxes for small items, such as buttons, later on.
These beautiful boxes caught on, and helped Cadbury rocket to success. And while the Cadburys enjoyed the success of their boxes, chocolate lovers the world over began to enjoy the beauty of finely wrapped chocolates.
It’s no wonder that Cadbury’s boxes became popular for Valentine’s Day, as the giver could offer candies for now and artful storage for later. And while Cadbury’s original boxes disappeared around the time of the second World War, the legacy they left on boxed chocolates is far from gone.
So look around at your chocolate boxes this Valentine’s Day. And take heart, knowing that the heart-shaped box you may have received has a truly delicious history.