KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The yellow, cross-stitched Whitman's Sampler, the iconic box of chocolates is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
More than one billion Samplers have been enjoyed since 1912, and a large number of those empty boxes can still be found in desk drawers, cupboards, and attics filled with keepsakes, recipes, baseball cards, buttons and the like.
Many clever ideas have helped pave the way for the Sampler's historic 100-year success. Even in 1912, the original package had an "aged yet ageless" look suggesting the box had been around for 100 years giving first time buyers a sense of confidence in their gift choice.
The Sampler was the first box of chocolates with an index showing each candy inside--now a boxed chocolate standard. The Sampler was the first packaged product in the United States to be wrapped in cellophane and the first to be nationally sold in the best drug stores across the country.
By 1915, more than 19,000 independent drug stores offered the Whitman's Sampler.
The Sampler is the most advertised box of chocolates in history. Many of the ads produced over the decades are works of art created by the best illustrators and photographers of the day.
Among the product's famous slogans was "A Woman Never Forgets the Man Who Remembers" and "Here's How I Remember! Why Don't You?". John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor pitched the Whitman Sampler, and they were paid in boxes of candy and a mention of the actor's upcoming motion picture.
A Sampler has been a special gift from the president for important guests who visit the White House and those traveling on Air Force One. It's even packaged in its very own presidential tin. In 1991, the Sampler's place in American history was further recognized when it was added to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
And to American servicemen, the Sampler has been a comforting gift from home. During World War II, handwritten notes of encouragement were packed into Sampler boxes and sent to the fighting troops. This tradition was continued in 2001 after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sampler boxes with hand written notes were delivered to American troops overseas.
"This yellow box is simply amazing," Whitman's president, Tom Ward, said. "I don't know exactly what it is, but Americans love to give it year after year after year. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the men and women who continue to make the Sampler day in and day out. I am proud that everything from the handcrafted chocolates to the beautiful paper box is proudly made in America with the same passion and excellence that began in 1842 when Stephen F. Whitman made his first chocolates in Philadelphia."
To celebrate this 100-year milestone, the Whitman's Sampler wants to party with anyone born in 1912 in the company's "Kiss Me, I'm 100" giveaway. Winners will receive a "Kiss Me, I'm 100" hat and a jumbo Whitman's Sampler.
The brand also sponsors the Whitman's Sampler Mile High Classic, a major college lacrosse event. The Whitman's Sampler Mile High Classic will be played in primetime on April 27 at Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos. The double-header event will feature four of the finest teams in the NCAA, Virginia vs. Penn and Denver vs. Duke.
Celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2012, Whitman's Candies is America's oldest continuous producer of boxed chocolates.