by Diane Larson

In February while we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, classrooms across America will be filled with children making and decorating containers for their Valentine cards from classmates to be dropped into. Many of us can remember making out endless valentines for our classmates. The teacher sent home a list of student’s names so you dare not forget one. That’s a lot of valentines.


Cards are a key part of the Valentine’s Day and a big seller. According to Statistic Brain 180 million, Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually. Eighty-five percent of those are purchased by women, and cards make up fifty-two percent of all gifts given on the day.


“Valentine greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages, a time when prospective lovers said or sang their romantic verses,” says In the 1400s written valentines begin to appear and by the Sixteenth Century, the written Valentine message is commonplace.


Valentine's cards first made an appearance in the eighteenth century in England. These initial valentines were homemade. says that “Lovers would decorate paper with romantic symbols including flowers and love knots.” Once they had designed the card they would put lines of a poem, maybe a puzzle and sign the card. These were then tied to the doorknob of the intended or slipped under the door.


One of the oldest surviving examples is from 1797 and is in the York Castle Museum. The card was sent by “Catherine Mossday to Mr. Brown of London,” says The card was decorated with images of Cupid and flowers and contained this message.

“Since on this ever Happy day,

All Nature’s full of Love and Play

Yet harmless still if my design,

‘Tis but to be your Valentine.”

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Public 
Domain. By Chordboard (Self, from 
material in my possession) [Public 
Domain, GFKL (

Once the industrial revolution hit Britain cards were mass produced and quickly became popular. According to in the mid-1820s some 200,000 Valentines were distributed in London alone. These cards were made quite elaborate with lace, beads, and embroidery. Often they contained lines from poetry like the one above. The more elaborate the more one spent on them.


Victorian valentine collections include some less ‘loved-up’ and often crude messages. According to, these were referred to as “Vinegar Valentines.”  The ‘vinegar valentines’ were created by a New York printer, John McLaughlin. An example from of one titled ‘Miss Nosey.’ The message reads,

“On account of your talk of others’ affairs

At most dances, you sit warming the chairs

Because of the care with which you attend

To all others’ business, you haven’t a friend.”


There are very few surviving examples of these cards.


Valentine’s Day cards finally traveled across the Atlantic in the mid-nineteenth century to America. They grew in popularity in America as quickly as they had done so in England and, according to were initially advertised as a British fashion.


Advanced technologies here in the states meant that cards could be produced more rapidly and could be even more elaborate. Hallmark produced their first Valentine’s Day Cards in 1913 and the commercialization of the holiday was born, says



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by Diane Larson 


photo by Diane Larson

This Valentine’s Day boxes and boxes of chalky fruity flavored hearts with wee stamped messages will fill classrooms across the nation. They have been a Valentine’s Day staple for a very long time. Just how long you ask. Well, we have some answers.

It all began in 1847 in Boston with a man named Oliver Chase. Chase worked in the apothecary/confection industry. Oliver Chase was not a candy maker, he was a pharmacist according to However if someone wanted anything that was even close to candy, the apothecary or pharmacist was where you would find what you needed.

The pharmacists knew what Mary Poppins new, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” says that pharmacists had been using sugar to disguise the often bitter tastes of the herbs used in the medicines. A change in career from apothecary to candy maker wasn’t that big of a step for Chase.

According to Chase made a lozenge that was made up of gum Arabic, peppermint and brown sugar by hand. This lozenge became very popular. As the need for the lozenges grew Chase needed to devise a way to increase productivity.

He rigged a machine that would cut the lozenges to keep up with the demand. His machine worked well, and he was able to produce large quantities and to meet the needs of the market. claims that Chase’s machine “marked the founding of the U.S. candy industry, as well as the beginning of commercial candy production.”

Shortly after creating his machine, Chase opened his first factory in Boston, on Melcher Street. His next move was to develop a patented pulverizing sugar machine. Then Chase partnered with his brother Daniel and Silas Edwin. The three founded Chase and Co., which would eventually become New England Confectionery Co., or as we know it today NECCO. 

The lozenge that guided Chase to develop his first machine became the company’s flagship brand, The Necco Wafer, according to

The Necco Wafer is the predecessor of the Sweethearts Conversation Heart candy. Oliver Chase’s brother and partner, Daniel saw a purpose for the wafer candies.  Daniel invented “the machine that was able to press on the candy,” according to Initially, the messaged candies were used for weddings. Some of the original sayings were, “Married in pink, he will drink” “Married in white, you chose right,” and “Married in satin, your love will not be lasting,” Wikipedia.

By 1901, these messaged lozenges developed into the heart-shaped candy we know today. According to Wikipedia the company now produces these hearts all year round. However, production is ramped up beginning in September. Approximately 100,000 pounds of hearts are made per day. These can actually sell out in as little as six weeks.  


Big Sky Connection


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Eric Tegethoff

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, the Friday presentation mentioned here had to be postponed. When we receive more information, we will include it.

February 9, 2018

ENNIS, Mont. - Ambrin Masood travels around Montana talking about her Muslim faith. 

In Big Sky Country, Muslims make up a very small part of the population: only about half of one percent. That makes Masood's work even more important.

Masood, who is an assistant professor at Montana State University Billings, has teamed up with Humanities Montana, a nonprofit that sponsors civic-minded presentations, to give speeches to schools and communities. 

Friday, Masood will be in Ennis and, as with other discussions, wants to build bridges. For instance, she tells audiences that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God. She says understanding is the best tool to fight hatred.

"Sometimes we get scared," says Masood, "and then if we don't have knowledge about the scary object, we tend to hold grudge or bitterness, and that bitterness leads to blind hate, and then that just complicates our own lives also."

Masood will also talk about how Muslims pray and dispel some of the myths of her faith. Her presentation, "Cultural Diversity and Muslims in America," starts at 6 p.m. at the Madison Valley Public Library.

Around the country, Muslims face discrimination that often plays on stereotypes. Masood uses the turban as an example. 

She says men of the Sikh faith often are harassed for being Muslims because they wear turbans. But Masood says this headwear is cultural and equates it to a fashion style ubiquitous in Montana.

"It's a symbol of pride just like a cowboy's belt buckle is a symbol of pride," she says. "The bigger the buckle, the stronger the rodeo rider, that kind of a thing. That is how a turban is in some cultures. A turban is a cultural thing. It's not related to religion."

Masood moved to Montana in 2009 and says this is home for her and her three kids. That was solidified in the wake of President Donald Trump's travel ban. 

Masood wanted to travel to visit her family in Pakistan but wasn't assured she could get back into this country. 

"I couldn't go back, couldn't afford to go back to visit my family," says Masood. "And then my colleagues here at MSUB and just people in the community - my friends - they became my support network, they became my family. And I'm resilient today, I'm doing well today because of them."

Masood says she's received as much love in Montana as she would in Pakistan.



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