Candy Making in Brooklyn, 1908
I happen to live in Brooklyn, so it is with pride that I relate Brooklyn’s glorious candy days past. In 1908, Brooklyn ranked among the top confectionery manufacturing cities. Brooklyn alone accounted for 130,000,000 pounds of confectionery and chocolate a year, at a value of some $10,000,000. The population of the borough in that year was 1,640,400; so that’s almost 80 pounds for each man, woman, and child. The biggest candy factory in the world was on Lorimer Street, churning out 36,000,000 pounds of confection a year for the candy starved masses. All that candy didn’t stay in Brooklyn, though. Brooklyn candy makers exported more candy than those of any other city, and Brooklyn-made candies could be found in every state of the union.
Brooklyn was a great place to be a candy eater, too. In 1908, there were some 560 shops dedicated to the sale of candy, and many of those shops were also making their own candies on site. Plus, you could buy candy at drug stores, news stands, stationers, department stores… well, the fact is, it would have been hard to not buy various, interesting, fresh, locally made candy in 1908, if you found yourself on the streets of Brooklyn.
One candy seller described his typical male customer’s candy-eating habits:
[Men] are at it all the time–and eat much more at a time than they used to.It is the men who keep the candy business going. Where they used to buy a box once in a while and carry it home, now they come into a store like this and buy 5 or 10 or 15 cents worth just for themselves and eat it right up.
5 cents in 1908 would buy you a good-sized bar, or a pouch of smaller candies, about what a dollar buys today. 15 cents worth of candy would have been a hefty amount to “eat right up”!
No wonder America was known in that day as a nation of candy eaters. Brooklyn’s 560 candy shops served 1.6 million people. Today, we have 250 listings in the Yellow Pages under “candy,” and the borough population is closer to 2.5 million. Most candy comes from drug store and grocery racks, the same familiar Hershey and Mars and the like. Yeah, we still eat candy, but not like in those good old days…
Source: “Brooklyn leads Country in Candy Export.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle 7 March 1908 Industries, Real Estate, Long Island Section, p 1-3.