Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweets of Yesterday

by Shanna Hatfield

Due to the fact I have a huge sweet tooth, I often incorporate candy into the stories I write. 
(Blame it on my dad who gave me candy on a daily basis when I was a kid...)

It's not uncommon to read a historical story and happen upon a character enjoying a peppermint, lemon drop, candy stick, chewing gum, or perhaps a licorice whip.

I thought it might be fun to highlight a few other vintage candies...

In my current work in progress, a young man returns to his home in the West after spending several years studying back east. He brings with him a pocket full of Tootsie Rolls to share with his family, who enjoy this new and tasty treat.

Tootsie Rolls
In 1896, Leo Hirschfield invented the Tootsie Roll and named it for his daughter, Tootsie. His new hand-rolled candy sold for one penny. By 1905, the candy production moved to a four-story New York City candy manufacturing plant and deliveries were made by horse and buggy.

Jelly beans
Legend has it that jelly beans are a combination of the soft Middle Eastern treat called Turkish Delight (around for thousands of years) and the hard candy shell of Jordan Almonds (popular since the 17th century). An early (uncomfirmed) reference to jelly beans comes from Boston candy maker William Schrafft. Supposedly, he urged people to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Jelly beans did in fact become wide-spread in America by the turn of the century and sold with other penny candies. It wasn’t until the 1930s that jelly beans became firmly entrenched as a must-have for Easter. (Although chocolate bunnies earn top ranking as Americas favorite Easter candy.)

Although the origin of the gumdrop remains a mystery, the term first appeared in print in 1860. The candy was described as a soft gelatin-based candy that stretched like rubber when pulled. Some manufacturers also used a potato-based less stretchy method of producing the sweet at a lower cost. The candy became quite popular at the end of the 19th century. Ohio candy manufacturer Percy Truesdell is credited with developing the modern gumdrop in 1915.

NECCO Wafers
During my years growing up on a farm, I can’t think of a time when my dad didn’t have a roll of these candies around. He most often kept a handful of them in his shirt pocket, but they could be found in his pickup, the tractors, and sometimes even a stash of them in the shop. 

A young English immigrant by the name of Oliver Chase invented the first American candy cutting machine in 1847- for lozenges. He and his brother Silas Edwin founded Chase and Co., which became the pioneer member of the New England Confectionery Company family. NECCO wafers were originally formulated to give Union solders a burst of energy during the American Civil War. They reportedly worked so well, they were still included in military rations during World War II. The classic product contained 40 wafers in a roll with eight original flavors: lemon, lime, orange, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, wintergreen, and clove.

Whitman Sampler
Stephen F. Whitman, a 19-year-old Quaker, set up a small "confectionery and fruiterer shoppe" near the Philadelphia waterfront in 1842. He included exotic ingredients brought to him by well-traveled sailors and his candies quickly gained renown across the Northeast. Aware that presentation could be as important to selling his chocolates as the taste, he created beautiful packaging and advertised his sweets. Whitman’s Chocolates became a familiar name through advertisements in newspapers and magazines as early as 1857. His business thrived and expanded. In 1869, Horace Whitman replaced his father as president of the company. He introduced America to cellophane packaging - an astounding material that kept candy fresh, colorful, and clean. By 1907, “better” drug stores carried the boxes of candy on their shelves. In 1911, Walter Sharp took over as president and developed the Whitman's Sampler®, an assortment of the company's best-selling chocolates. Inspired by a cross-stitched sampler hanging in his home, Sharp worked with an employee to create the sampler that's reproduced on Sampler boxes to this day. By 1915, the Sampler had become America's best-selling box of chocolates.

Hershey’s Chocolates
Candy manufacturer Milton Hershey made the decision to try adding chocolate coating to his caramels in 1894. Calling this new enterprise the Hershey Chocolate Company, the company began producing milk chocolate in bars, wafers and other shapes in 1900. With mass production, Hershey was able to lower the per-unit cost and make milk chocolate, once a luxury item for the wealthy, affordable to all. In 1907, the company produced a flat-bottomed, conical milk chocolate candy that Mr. Hershey named Hershey’s Kisses Chocolates. At first, they were individually wrapped in little squares of silver foil, but in 1921 machine wrapping took over that job. Hershey provided milk chocolate bars to American doughboys in the first war. By the end of World War II, more than a billion Ration D bars had been produced and the company had earned no less than five Army-Navy “E” Production Awards for its exceptional contributions to the war effort. In fact, the company’s machine shop even turned out parts for the Navy’s anti-aircraft guns.

 The beginnings of lollipops go all the way back to the stone age when sticks were inserted into hives and the honey was eaten from the sticks. Fast forward to the 17th century when sugar became more plentiful. The English enjoyed boiled sugar candy treats, inserted on sticks to make it easier to eat. The word lollipop first appeared in print in 1784, referring to a sweet in general, not specifically candy on a stick. Even Charles Dickens included the term in his writings. Reportedly, the term “lolly pop” literally means “tongue slap.” The word for “tongue” is “lolly” in Northern England and “pop” means “slap.” It is thought London street vendors coined this term as they peddled the treat. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, supposedly the ends of pencils were dipped in candy for children to enjoy while they wrote. (It wasn't until 1858 that pencils were manufactured with erasers on the end). Around the turn of the century, the Bradley Smith Company, the McAviney Candy Company, and the Racine Confectionery Machine Company were all manufacturing candy on sticks. It wasn’t until 1931 when the Bradley Smith Company patented the name “lollipop” for their version of candy on a stick.

What's your favorite Easter candy?  Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
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  1. Not really fond of candy, but oh those Peppermint paties with dark chocolate...ahhhhh Doris

  2. Oh my gosh! Loved this article! And my favorite candy (or one of the many favorites) is Neccos! Especially the chocolate ones. I just had a a fun time going through the jelly belly warehouse near me.