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As long as any of us can remember, conversation hearts have been a part of Valentine's Day. They're rock hard, and taste like chalk. So where did they even come from, and why are they such a big deal?

A little digging reveals that the conversation heart didn't start out as a heart at all. They started out as thin, little wafers created by a pharmacist turned candy maker.

Oliver Chase was wanting to find an easier way of making lozenges, so he created a machine to do most of the work.

It was a complicated process that involved a mortar and pestle, dough, and cutting the small discs. His machine made it simple.  This was in 1847.

That machine is considered America's first candy making machine, and Oliver soon switched his focus from medicine to candy. That gave birth to the Necco wafer.

In the mid-1800s, Valentine's cards became very popular. It's believed that this is when Oliver's brother had a stroke of genius. He started putting messages on the wafers. Those messages were either meant to inspire love, or ward off unwanted affection.

In 1902, they started making the discs in the shape of a heart. The rest is history.

While some of the sayings may be fun, conversation hearts are right up there with candy corn and fruit cake. We have them because of tradition. I don't know anyone who actually loves them.

The Necco company, by the way, claims they make 100,000 pounds of conversation hearts every year in preparation for Valentine's Day.