Friday, October 16, 2015

What's the deal with Sweetest Day bullshit, anyway?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 3:50 PM

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Tomorrow is Sweetest Day. Well, tomorrow is Sweetest Day in many Midwestern towns, mainly Detroit and Cleveland. But in the rest of the country it will just be a regular ol’ Saturday.

Who's to blame for that?

In Detroit, it’d be Frederick Sanders of the Sanders Candy Company, a large promoter of the holiday (scroll down to see the man who founded Sanders in 1875). In Cleveland, it’d be those 12 white guys up top. (From left to right, courtesy of this post: C.R. Canter, A.E. Barton, R.T. Fuller, J.J. Wilsdon, R.H. Sheehan, W.A. Katzenmeyer, A.A. Sarouch, Louis Hahn, W.J. Nichols, C.C. Hartzell [chairman], L. Narwood, and L.E. Gruber.)

That was the committee back in 1921 — literally called the "Sweetest Day in the Year Committee" — that created this godforsaken excuse of a holiday. Yes, they were candy guys one and all, straight out of Big Candy, and they came up with this grand scheme to pull a holiday out of midair to boost sales. It's just the sort of nefarious dealings you would expect from a bunch of confectioneers. Big Candy is not to be trifled with.

Lots of folks, of course, have mistakenly placed blame on Big Greeting Card before — y'all know the term Hallmark Holiday —  but American Greetings and Hallmark did nothing but take advantage of Big Candy's creation and used it to sell a bajillion greeting cards to guys who had the misfortune of living in Cleveland or Detroit while dating. (Hallmark started making cards in the '60s, AG in the '30s.)

Former Plain Dealer scribe and current CWRU media relations guru Bill Lubinger broke down the actual origin story back in 2005. Sadly, that piece of journalism is no longer available on Cleveland.com. Thankfully, though, bits and pieces of it were shared on a variety of Sweetest Day-oriented sites and in articles and the creamy nougat of his work can be pulled together for the most part, the most important bit being that the original tales of magnanimous candymakers dolling out treats for no reason other than to be good people is probably definitely not true. From the Mount Vernon News:

The heartwarming version of the story is that, in 1922, Herbert Birch Kingston, a candy company employee, gave away candy to people he felt had been forgotten by others: Orphans, shut-ins and the underprivileged. His magnanimous gesture caught on and the holiday — always celebrated on the third Saturday in October — spread, but slowly and not very far.

However, reporter Bill Lubinger of The Cleveland Plain Dealer shot the heartwarming story full of holes a few years ago when he wrote that “... Cleveland’s top candy makers concocted the promotion ... and it stuck, although it never became as widely accepted as hoped.”

Lubinger bases this on The Plain Dealer’s own article published on Oct. 8, 1921, which tells how “Sweetest Day was planned by a committee of 12 confectioners, who distributed 19,500 boxes of candy to newsboys, homeless people, orphans and others who had fallen on hard times in Cleveland. The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee was assisted in the distribution of candy by some of the biggest movie stars of the day including Theda Bara and Anne Pennington.”

Big Candy tried to push the holiday to other cities, including New York, but not many cities were dumb enough to get sucked into the sugary hurricane. We were not so lucky.

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