Christmas 1915 would be a special time in the world of chocolate.
Christmas 1915 would be a special time in the world of chocolate. But like others, it would go unrecognized until history was written years later.
Christmas season always meant long workdays in the candy industry. So it was for Stephen F. Whitman & Son of Philadelphia, Pa, especially with the success of their ‘Whitman’s Sampler’ introduced three years earlier. Tonight, when the last worker turned off the light and locked the door at the Whitman candy factory on Cherry Street, it was almost midnight.
The front of the building was occupied by a salesroom fashioned to retain the appearance of the original "Confectionery and Fruiterer Shoppe" set up in 1842 by 19-year-old, Stephen F. Whitman at Third and Market Streets, on the Philadelphia waterfront.
Whitman first became popular with traveling sailors. They would often bring imported fruits, nuts, and cocoa, which were obtained during their voyages to Mr. Whitman so that he could make the popular European confections people craved in that era. Before long, Whitman's chocolates were well-known throughout the northeastern United States.
The display case was now a Museum of Chocolate, including proudly, every item of chocolate made by Whitman; Milk Chocolate Butter Cream, Milk Chocolate Caramel, and Dark Chocolate Cashew Cluster, to name a few.
The shop was dark. Outside, gas street lamps and motor car headlights and their reflections from the snow-covered street sent flashes of light through the window into the shop, making long shadows that danced across the walls and ceiling.
"Wake up, you guys,” barked Sergeant. “You gonna sleep all night?"
Sergeant was an impressive solid dark chocolate toy soldier figure, four inches tall and wrapped in colorful foil.
Freezy mumbled a reply. "I'm awake."
Freezy was the perfect representation of a happy winter day. At five inches tall, the snowman’s white chocolate body was decorated with dark, milk and colored chocolate, making his hat, eyes, nose, scarf, and buttons.
"Me too,” came from Santa, leaning against the back of the case, “what's the fuss?"
Weighing in at 4.4 ounces of the finest imported Swiss milk chocolate, this Santa Claus was an impressive three-dimensional, semisolid, foiled wrapped with a gold ribbon sash, Christmas delight.
"Look over there. We have a new neighbor," answered Sergeant.
"Oh yeah, we do,” said Freezy. “He looks funny … only half a figure."
Santa hailed the newcomer. "Hey, mister! Who are you?"
The newcomer was a partial cutaway of a delivery boy in a small block of milk chocolate, running with a box under his arm.
"I've been told my name is 'Messenger Boy,' and I will be the company's new logo," replied the new arrival.
"What's inside you, if I may ask — nuts, caramel, toffee?" asked Santa.
"Nothing,” answered Messenger, not at all offended. “I'm solid milk chocolate."
Sergeant was curious. "So, how are they going to sell you — by the pound, by the dozen, by the bag full?"
"None of that. I'll be by myself in the center of every Sampler."
"Oh, that 'Sampler' thing again," moaned Freezy.
The Whitman's Sampler is a collection of the most famous pieces of candy sold in the confectionery shop. The 24-ounce box of assorted chocolates includes a festive array of milk and dark chocolate-covered nuts, nougat, and creams.
Sergeant voiced his tired opinion for the umpteenth time. "I don't think that Sampler idea will work. Nobody will buy a box full of everything."
"… especially since they can't tell what's inside," added Freezy.
Messenger replied politely, "There is an index on the inside lid of every box, and my likeness will be over that index."
"Just milk chocolate, no filling?" Freezy asked again, just to be sure.
"Just milk chocolate," replied Messenger.
This piece of chocolate was disconcerting Sergeant. "So why a half cutout of a delivery boy?"
"Messenger, not delivery."
"Okay, I stand corrected. But why?"
Messenger’s voice carried a note of pride. "I will carry the company's message."
"Oh, what message is that?" asked Freezy.
Messenger was ready and proudly recited the company line. "A message of quality and excellence. The Sampler representing thoughtfulness, delivering sweets to your sweetheart or straight to your sweet tooth."
"Will you be wrapped in bright foil?" asked Santa, self-conscious about his own garb.
"Nope. Just me as you see me now."
Freezy was getting jealous. "So, you'll be a blob of milk chocolate in the middle of a box of everything."
Sergeant voiced his disdain. "That will never work."
"You could look at it that way,” said Messenger, replying mostly to Freezy but also to Sergeant, “but did you see all those fancy boxes in the back room?"
"That's another thing, those expensive boxes," exclaimed Santa.
"… and wrapped in cellophane," added Freezy.
Whitman was the first in the industry to use cellophane to wrap its packaged products. Cellophane was imported from France until 1924 when Dupont started the United States production. For many years, Whitman's was the largest single user of cellophane in America.
"That will never work."
"Bad idea," agreed Santa.
"Nope, never work," huffed Sergeant.
The Sampler emerged as the most popular assortment in Whitman's line. In recognition of its standing, the Messenger Boy was introduced in 1915, became a registered trademark, and added as a piece of candy to the Sampler.
Messenger couldn't smile; he was just a block of milk chocolate.
Word Count: 885