Efforts to commemorate the War of 1812 in its bicentennial year have gained remarkably little traction on this side of the border, but MARS is banking on celebrations inspiring a flurry of patriotic purchases in Canada.
MARS' Historic Division this month is introducing its American Heritage Chocolate to museums across Canada. The cocoas and bars will be marketed as "Heritage Chocolate," although they'll be made according to the recipes MARS has used in the U.S. since inaugurating the line in 2006.
Americans remember the War of 1812 mostly for its musical legacy: The conflict spawned "The Star Spangled Banner" and Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans." In a recent Slate essay exploring the war's obscurity, James Lundberg wrote, "The War of 1812 has complicated origins, a confusing course, an inconclusive outcome, and demands at least a cursory understanding of Canadian geography. Moreover, it stands as the highlight of perhaps the single most ignored period of American history."
That may explain why a measure to establish a War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission floundered in Congress, and why two successive New York governors vetoed statewide bicentennial commissions. A few border states are planning observances, but there aren't any organized commemorations in Washington.
But Canada has made the bicentennial a national event. The celebration will serve as a warm-up for the country's sesquicentennial in 2017, and the proximity of the dates isn't coincidental. "Canada would not exist had the American invasion of 1812-14 been successful," a government website explains.
MARS hopes Canadians will want to celebrate their battle victories with chocolate. (Interestingly, that option wasn't available to the U.S. soldiers who fought in the war, since cacao importation was limited by military activities at sea.) As in the U.S., Heritage Chocolate -- made without preservatives, in what MARS calls a "Colonial-style" -- will only be sold at museums. Here, the chocolate's available through dozens of institutions, including Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon.
According to Kelly Lynch of Brand Building Communications, which works with MARS, no other U.S. food companies are seizing the opportunity to mark the War of 1812. "We're the only ones we know of," she says.