Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Tue Jan 9 16:00:31 UTC 2007

Michael Quinion <wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG> writes:

As Barry Popik has discovered, the first dated mention of fudge is in a
Vassar yearbook from 1893. The letter by Emelyn Battersby Hartridge, of
which I have a copy here, is indeed earlier, but is undated. However, from
internal evidence it must be later than 1888.

My interest is in the provenance of the odd story about it coming from a
spoiled batch of caramel on the (suspiciously precise) date of 14 February
1886, which the same year that Ms Hartridge said she first came across the
sweetmeat (though she doesn't confirm that she knew it by that name then).
Online writers presumably got the story and the date from somewhere, but I
haven't been able to find the source.


The precision is not so suspicious: February 14 is Valentine's Day, and has
been since the end of the fifth century
(http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159). The date's
association with the exchange of love letters and love tokens predates

  For this was on seynt Valentynes day,
  Whan every foul [fowl] cometh ther to chese his make [choose his mate]
        The Parliament of Fowles, ll. 309-310

And that association was commercially established in the US by the middle of
the 19th century:

 In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper
lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828-1904)
of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery
store, and she took her inspiration from an English valentine she had


Howland attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley,
Massachusetts, not that far from Vassar, where the fudge story comes from.
But even without that proximity, valentines were a major cottage industry in
the US and big business by 1880, when "Esther sold out to the George C.
Whitney Company, also of Worcester, which became the largest valentine
factory in the world."

m a m

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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