So began the story in the Plain Dealer about the first "Sweetest Day", in 1921. The story, published on October 8 of that year, on page 7, continued:
A little rain and a few black clouds failed to affect the spirits of Clevelanders who have come under the spell of the "Sweetest Day in the Year" committee.
The committee distributed 10,000 boxes candy to Clevelands' orphanages and charitable institutions yesterday. This morning an additional 5,000 boxes of candy will be distributed by Ann Pennington, star of George White's "Scandals" at the Ohio theater this week, and Theda Bara, peerless vampire of the screen, and Cleveland's first Sweetest Day in the Year will be inaugurated.
Twenty-five hundred newsboys are expected to storm the Cleveland Advertising Club at the Hotel Statler this morning to receive candy from Ann Pennington.
At the same time Theda Bara will give away 2,000 boxes of candy in front of Loew's State, Park, and Liberty theaters. The candy will be given to every person who presents a card, mailed this week to families from lists compiled by charitable organizations.
C.C. Hartzell, chaiman of the "Sweet Day in the Year" committee, and E. G. Winger supervised the distribution.
Everywhere we went," Hartzell said, "we were greeted wtih cheers. At the Eliza Jennings Home one old aldy told us with tears in her eyes that no one ever thouht of giving them candy."
The purpose of the Sweetest Day in the Year is to bring happiness to everyone, Hatzell explained. The committee arranged to distribute the candy to those who would be unable to buy it. A movement to establish a national Sweetest Day in the Year will be inaugurated next year, he said.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the Plain Dealer was filled with advertisements and filler copy for the event. One suggested "The Sweetest Day in the Year for Mother, Sister, Sweetheart and all." (October 3, 1921, page 4) Another reminded the reader "Don't forget the Kiddies, Oct. 8. The Sweetest Day in the Year." (October 3, 1921, page 20) Yet another read "The Sweetest Day in the Year. Everybody's happy day. Oct. 8." (October 3, 1921, page 11)
This detail from an ad for Chandler & Rudd (Plain Dealer, October 7, 1921, page 12) refers to the holiday as "Candy Day".
An ad for Crane's Chocolates suggests life-changing potential. (Plain Dealer, October 3, 1921, page 4)
The following year, 1922, there were many similar advertisements. Another story, with a similarly charitable note to the one the preceding year, ran, under the headline ""Sweetest Day" Brings Joy to City's Orphans - Woman's Club Gives Candy for Wards of Humane Society." (Plain Dealer, October 13, 1922, page 13) The article read:
Childish joy was brought yesterday to the homes where live the 1,200 children looked after by the Cleveland Humane Society, through the gift by the Cleveland Womans's Club of 300 boxes of candy.
The presentation was made yesterday afternoon in the rooms of the Humane Society in city hall by Mrs. Josiah Kirby, president of the club. Mrs. Evelyn F. Stires received the candy for the society.
The club aggregation which made the presentation consisted of Mrs. Kirby, Mrs. Arthur C. Holt, chairman of the programming committe, and Mrs. J.D. Littlefield.
The gift was among the first of a number which will result in the distribution of 10,000 boxes, according to officials at the "Sweetest Day" headquarters, 1901 Euclid avenue. The candy will go to the inmates of thirty-two hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable institutions.
Newsboys each will receive a box of candy tomorrow morning, the day having been designated as "the sweetest day of the year." The distribution will be made by the Cleveland Advertising Club, which will erect a booth at Euclid avenue and E. 12th street. Miss Dorothy Shoemaker, actress playing with the Robert McLaughlin company at the Metropolitan, will personally present 2,500 boxes. The boys will line up in E. 12th Street toward Chester avenue N.E.
While it is true, as has been suggested elsewhere, that it was created to sell product, the product in question was not greeting cards, but candy, as the name implies. It is interesting that the word "sweetest", in this context, now tends to be seen as referring to the person you find "sweetest", while, as created, it was meant more widely, and to refer both to the product being sold as well as hinting at the possible audience.
The charitable aspect of the holiday, as noted in these articles, is worth thinking about. What would we say today if a group mined the address lists of various local charities for what might be called a publicity stunt? Further, what would the response of the recipients be? Would they travel downtown just to get a box of candy?
It would be interesting to know whether those who went to pick up the candy did it for the sweets or for the opportunity to meet the actors.