The Gruesome King of Candy Land
By 1890, candy was everywhere. It was cheap, and it was plentiful, and children with just a penny or two could enjoy an afternoon of sucking and chewing and licking all sorts of sweet stuff.
Not everybody was happy about this. Adult reformers and alarmists were appalled at the spectacle of children choosing and enjoying their own treats. No good could come of it. Adults who sought to save children from their own worst impulses did not hesitate to use dramatic scare tactics to persuade youngsters, and their overly lax parents, of the evils of candy.
Here is one version of didactic anti-candy literature, a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that was published in several magazines in the 1890s. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was best known for her inspirational and sentimental popular poetry. You can see here that, when children’s teeth and stomachs seemed in danger, she would not hesitate to go over to the dark side.
The King of Candy Land
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (c. 1890)
Have you heard of the King of Candy Land?
Well,listen while I sing;
He has pages on every hand,
For he is a mighty king,
And thousands of children bend the knee
And bow to this ruler of high degree.
He has a smile, O! like the sun,
And his face is crowned and bland;
His bright eyes twinkle and glow with fun,
As the children kiss his hand;
And every thing toothsome, melting sweet,
He scatters freely before their feet.
But woe! for the children who follow him,
With loving praise and laughter,
For he is a monster, ugly and grim,
That they go running after:
And when they get well into the chase,
He lifts his mask and shows his face.
And O! that is a grewsome sight,
For the followers of the king:
The cheeks grow pale that once were bright,
And they sob instead of sing;
And their teeth drop out and their eyes grow red,
And they cannot sleep when they go to bed.
And often they see the monster’s face,–
They have no peaceful hour;
And they have aches in every place,
And what was sweet seems sour.
O, woe! for that foolish sorrowful band
Who follow the King of Candy Land.
While I don’t recall candy ever giving me nightmares when I was a child, I suspect this poem might have done the trick.