Candy Making in Brooklyn, 1908

November 16, 2009 at 6:22 pm 2 comments

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.

Entry filed under: 1890 to WW I, Candy Making, Candy Nostalgia. Tags: .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith Utter  |  July 20, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Nice to find this atricle. I’m searching for information on my great grandfather, Andrea Lertora, who was proclaimed as the first manufacturer of marshmallows. He had a factory localed at 7 Wooster St. in Brooklynn through this era. He was killed by a train in 1908 on his way to work and the factory was operated after that by my grandfather, John Lertora, I believe until sometime toward the depression. Any info or resourses would be great. Thank you, Keith Utter

    Reply
    • 2. Joe Barrett  |  November 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Keith,

      I’m doing research too on Andrea. I have a paperweight with his picture and the address on it. If you do a Google search (“andrea lertora” marshmallow) you’ll find a Google Book about Freemasons and they have section in there about him.

      BTW, do you remember me? My family used to visit your dairy farm and also the Inn.

      Take care,
      Joe Barrett

      Reply

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

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