The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 2, 2009

Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:55 am

(Please Note:  This page is unofficial, and is not associated in any way with Russell Stover, Whitman’s or any other seller or manufacturer of candies.  If you wish to contact the manufacturer, you can find them at the Russell Stover homepage.)

As anyone who has been reading this Blog for any length of time is well aware, I am probably the last person you would want to rely on for any sort of relationship advice, unless for some odd reason you are looking for tips on accomplishing your lifelong dream of living out your life as a hermit living in the middle of nowhere, unblemished by any of that pesky human contact stuff.  I think that I would like to at least make an attempt to avoid this scenario, but that’s beside the point for now.  I probably can’t (and really shouldn’t) try to advise my readers about how to win the heart of their chosen Mr. or Ms. Right but still need some sort of vaguely seasonal content to tie in with the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.  Last year around this time, I put together my first annual (or so) Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup, and since this year’s collection of heart-shaped and jewel-encrusted merchandise seems to be sufficiently kitschy to warrant such a post once again, I am in the process of collecting the photographic evidence for such a collection once again. 

In the process of putting together such a collection, I find myself often staring at shelves full of quality (or otherwise) chocolate confections.  The sheer number of different choices to be found on the shelves these days is staggering (as I will discuss in further detail in the upcoming post as outlined above), but among the Johnny-come-latelies and trendy designer chocolates with a pricetag to match can be found the venerable Whitman’s Sampler, an old standby which was around long before most of the other chocolates on the shelf, and will most likely continue to be around long after many of the others have been relegated to the closeout rack  of history.  Whitman’s was founded in 1842, and has been producing the classic Whitman’s Sampler since 1912, leaving a trail of classic advertisements that remain sought after by collectors.  The company also has a long history of supporting the military throughout the various wars they have fought, and during World War II workers in the Whitman’s factory would often add handwritten notes of encouragement to boxes of chocolate being sent to the troops overseas.  From the 1960s through the early Nineties, ownership of the company changed hands several times before it finally landed with Russell Stover Candies, where it remains today. 

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Detail from a 1942 Whitman's ad. Click for the full ad (source: graphic-design.tjs-labs.com)

Unfortunately for the recipient of this charming little box of history, none of this makes it any easier to figure out what’s hiding inside all that rich chocolate coating that your current suitor has presented you with.  Oddly enough, I have found that there doesn’t seem to be much information on this topic on the Internet either.  As with any other self-respecting company these days Whitman’s has their own website, but it seems to be mostly geared toward selling products by mail order (although if you dig through the Russell Stover site a bit you can find a school project section that provides an overview of the history of Whitman’s,)  Information on the actual contents of the venerable yellow box of chocolate seems to be surprisingly hard to come by.  The lid of the box includes a “map” naming each type of chocolate in the box (in three different languages, no less) but in spite of this, the whole thing still seems rather vague.  While this type of thing might be great for someone with a sweet tooth and a hearty sense of adventure, I figure that there are some people out there who just might want to have a bit more information before they just bite into some random piece of candy.

In light of this (and because I would feel a whole lot less guilty about eating a whole box of chocolates by myself if I could somehow justify it as being for “research purposes,” I have taken it upon myself to dive into the Whitman’s Sampler, try each piece out and report back on my findings.  After the jump, you will find the results of my “study” of this classic box of ambiguous confections and brief impressions of each of the various candies found within.

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