Explore the History of Chocolate and Valentines at Old Sturbridge Village February 8–9

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Birth of America's valentine industry in Worcester, Mass. to be featured


STURBRIDGE, Mass. (Jan. 28, 2014) – Old-fashioned chocolate making, the birth of America’s valentine industry, a display of antique valentines, and valentine-making will highlight Old Sturbridge Village’s “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines” celebration on the weekend of February 8–9.  The two-day event features a portrayal of Esther Howland, the pioneer of America’s valentine card industry, who successfully built her New England Valentine Company in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts.  As part of its Kids Free on Winter Weekends promotion, the Village will be offering free admission to all children 17 and under who are accompanied by an adult paying full-priced admission.  More information on the event is available at www.osv.org. 

Esther Howland, whose father owned a stationery company in Worcester, Mass., became inspired to design and sell her own handmade valentines after seeing an English-made valentine in 1847.  By the 1860s, she was selling up to $100,000 worth of valentines annually as the New England Valentine Company, which she eventually sold to her chief competitor, the Whitney Valentine Company. Her story will be portrayed by Old Sturbridge Village historians throughout the weekend. 

Though chocolate is a favorite gift to celebrate Valentine’s Day, to most people in the early 1800s the word "chocolate" meant a tasty beverage rather than a candy bar.  That is because chocolate, from its Central American origins until the 1850s, was enjoyed almost exclusively as a drink, not a food. To show visitors how chocolate is made, OSV historians use the traditional Mexican method of processing chocolate by hand using seeds from the cacao tree.  Freshly roasted cacao seeds or “nibs,” are ground on a heated stone slab, a “metate,” with a pestle called a “mano.” As the nibs are ground, the cocoa butter starts to melt, resulting in a semi-liquid mass known as chocolate liquor.  This chocolate liquor is allowed to dry to be grated and used later to make a hot, spiced chocolate drink.

Additional winter activities at Old Sturbridge Village include sleigh rides on the Village Common, old-fashioned sledding, exploring historic buildings, engaging with Old Sturbridge Village interpreters, and making hands-on crafts.  Children will also enjoy the KidStory exhibit, where they can pretend to be rural New England villagers from the early 19th century.

Old Sturbridge Village is one of the largest living history museums in the nation, celebrating life in early New England from 1790 to 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but days and hours vary seasonally.  The Village offers lodging at the Old Sturbridge Inn and Reeder Family Lodges and several dining options on-site.  During the winter, the Village is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m., and on all Monday holidays.  It is also open daily for School Vacation Week February 15–23. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17: $8, but free with one full-priced adult admission on weekends through March 30 (no other discounts or coupons apply); children 2 and under: free. Admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days. OSV members receive free daytime admission all year long. For more details, visit www.osv.org or call 800-SEE-1830.


Contact:   Greg Dixon
774-230-2495 cell

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