Chocolate-Covered Traditions

How do you plan on showing your sweetheart that you care about them this Valentine’s Day? Flowers are a popular choice, poetry is always nice, but why not embrace the little known Iowa State Tradition of giving a 5 pound box of chocolate!  Iowa State students during the 1940s and 1950s announced monumental events in their lives by exchanging different sizes of boxed
chocolate. Pinning, the act of a Greek man giving his fraternity pin to his steady girlfriend, was celebrated by exchanging a 2 pound box of chocolate while engagements called for a 5 pound box, wedding announcements came with a 10 pound box, and pregnancies were announced by a 15 pound box (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State, box 1, folder 5).

So where would all of this chocolate go? It would be passed out during a ‘pound party’ where women would surprise their sorority sisters or floor-mates with their announcement. Women planned out this surprise party down to the very last details; some women planned lunches, ordered embroidered napkins and photo holders, and even used color schemes to represent the couple’s fraternity or sorority colors.

Local Ames businesses, such as Your Treat Shop formerly on Lincoln Way, would advertise their candy shops in Iowa State’s newspapers by announcing the engagements of couples who purchased pounds of candy at their shops.

Advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist. Image of a smiling couple at a candy counter, ad reads "Your Treat Shop salutes Mary Alice Connolly and Neil Hansen who announced their engagement with five pounds of chocolate from Your Treat Shop for your five or ten pound party or for any occasion, buy the best of candies at Your Treat Shop, 2526 Lincoln Way.

Your Treat Shop advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State Records, box 1, folder 5).

Although this tradition died out in the late 1960s, sorority women still celebrate engagements and pinning with candle passings, often still a surprise to the chapter.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, you can also celebrate with what students called a “lemon party,” where women who spent the four years unattached would share a box of lemon drops instead of chocolate.

Today’s blog post was written by Madison Vandenberg, our student assistant. You can read her other blog posts here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/author/madiepatie/. You can read an earlier post on sweet traditions at Iowa State here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/cypix-sweet-tradition/.

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