Love is grand, but candy is great, and vintage photography is sweeter still. Valentine’s Day might be a glorified Hallmark holiday, but today's monochrome marvel is like a Mars Bar for our eyes. Picking up a present for your valentine? This limited-edition print of a Cambridge, MA candy shop from 1941 combines old-school romance, timeless black and white photography, and good, old-fashioned confections. Per usual, our new release comes in a range of sizes, so you can opt for a little somethin’, or splash out on a statement piece. You can’t choose wrong. (The same cannot be said for what’s inside that box of mystery chocolates from the drugstore.) If, like us, you just love candy, you’ll wanna snag this photo for yourself. Candy Mart is all the sugar without coma … because we’re saving that for the day after Valentine’s when everything’s on sale.
A sign in the window of Candy Mart advertises “Valentine’s Conversation Hearts” at 15¢ a pound. You might know these as Sweethearts, the chalky heart-shaped Valentine’s staple from now defunct (RIP!) Necco. These time-honored little treats date back to 1902. (Fun fact, after a year out of rotation following a change of ownership, Sweethearts will allegedly reappear this Valentine’s Day.) The view also promises peanut brittle, peppermint patties, boxes upon boxes of chocolate bonbons in neat, mesmerizing rows, and a dizzying array of other delights. The 40s-era lettering is equally delicious-looking—bold, all-caps, and unornamented. Subtlety in commercial design wasn’t popular at the time. It was all about big, in-your-face signage with modern-feeling, simplified but striking forms. And of course the cool lettering is repeated all across the storefront. Can’t miss this Candy Mart!
Candy Mart was located at 739 Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge, MA—right in the middle of one of the city’s main business districts at the time. We came across this image thanks to the Cambridge Historical Commission, a public government commission that archives Cambridge history and pursues building preservation. Turns out, Cambridge was once the candy capital of the country. Main Street in Kendall Square was nicknamed “Confectioner’s Row”, the birthplace of Charleston Chews, Junior Mints, Necco wafers, Sugar Daddies, and all sorts of sweet Nabisco snacks. With waterside access, Greater Boston was well situated for the sugar and molasses trade, and in the days before air conditioning, the local climate was also a perk, permitting nearly year-round production. Prohibition also piqued interest in an alternative vice, and candy manufacturing conveniently required similar ingredients. Inventors in the area soon debuted America’s first candy-making machine—the one responsible for cranking out Necco wafers.
While many candy companies started in Boston, they’d eventually relocate to Cambridge to get more bang for their real estate buck. By 1946—only a few years after this photograph was taken—Cambridge was home to a whopping 66 independent confectionery manufacturers. Candy-making was the city’s second-largest industry. The Massachusetts candy biz took a downturn in the second half of the 20th century, squashed by giant national companies like Hershey’s and Nestle, but it left an indelible mark on the local history. Fortunately for us, it also left an edible legacy, and the delectable black and white photograph we find ourselves throwing back to today. Candy Mart might be long closed, but classic sweets never go out of style.
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