What could be sweeter on Valentine’s Day than a box of chocolates? We all know that every Whitman’s Sampler has an assortment of chocolates inside, but few may know much about the iconic man in the middle of every box. Who is this bearer of sweet treats? He’s the Whitman’s Messenger Boy.
Now owned by Russell Stover Candies, Whitman’s has been in business since 1842. Back then, it was a “confectionery and fruiterer” shop founded by Stephen F. Whitman. Their first storefront was based out of Philadelphia. Whitman, who hoped to compete with the finer French candy makers of the time, introduced the public to Choice Mixed Sugar Plums in 1854 and Whitman’s Instantaneous Chocolate in 1877 all while advertising the candies in newspapers and print magazines.
In 1912, the Whitman’s Sampler made its public debut. Each Sampler included a collection of their most popular chocolate with a candy index to tell consumers which piece was which. The Sampler was an instant hit and three years later, the Messenger Boy mascot was introduced as a symbol of the brand’s quality and excellence.
The Messenger Boy could be found inside the Sampler’s centerpiece as a piece of milk chocolate. He was also printed outside on the box packaging where he wore a blue cap, blue pants and shirt, and brown shoes. Tucked under his arm was a Whitman’s Sampler box.
While the character was designed to appear as though you had caught him mid-dash on his way to make a delivery, the icon also carried messages of thoughtfulness.
Whitman’s would continue to set the quality standard for the candy industry throughout the Great Depression. During World War II, Whitman’s sent six million pounds of chocolate to overseas servicemen with notes of comfort slipped inside from women on the Whitman’s production lines. Decades later, 6000 boxes of chocolate would be sent to the troops following the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001 with handwritten notes of encouragement slipped inside.
Now over 100 years old, the Sampler continues to be America’s most famous box of chocolates and a bestseller with a Sampler sold every 2.5 seconds. We like to think that’s thanks to the Messenger Boy, who can always be counted on to make a delightful Sampler delivery to your sweetheart or anyone with a sweet tooth — AKA all of us!