Early Toy Novelties: Kandyskope
You’ve noticed all the Easter candy toy novelties on the shelves this time of year. Yesterday, my daughter and I were admiring a bird house filled with jelly beans, and a clever little bicycling rabbit with a swirly lollypop in the rear basket that spins around when the bunny pedals the bike. Cute, and irresistible to the under-6 set.
Toys and candy: they are both all about pleasure and fun, little frivolities to enjoy. Adult candies always seem more serious, even at Easter time, wrapped up in sober colors and full of luxury and decadence.
So what about Kandyskope? Here was an early candy toy novelty, from 1913, and it wasn’t just for kids. Kandyskope was for “young and old alike.”
And just what was a Kandyskope? Simple. Take a kaleidoscope, replace the little glass chips with hard candy pieces, and TA DA: Kandyscope! Right on the label, Kandyskope promised “the best show for a dime. Watch the actors, and then eat them!” Pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the palate, and only ten cents.
Children’s penny candies were often shaped like toys: little horses, dogs, guns, flowers, or stars. And children’s candy merchants often gave away little toy prizes with the candy to encourage customer loyalty, cheap little things like pressed tin soldiers or elephants, whistles, puzzles, or marbles. If you had Crackerjacks back in the 1970s or earlier, you remember those little toy prizes. Back in the 1900s, that’s the sort of thing the candy man might have dropped in your sack of penny candy.
Kandyskope aimed much higher. At ten cents, it was an offering for the more lucrative trades. And the whole point of Kandyskope was to be better: “superior in ingenuity, workmanship, and appearance.”
Shortly after its introduction in May 1913, the term “Kandyskope” was trademarked by its manufacturer, Leonhart H. Freund and Company of New York. They thought they were on to something big and wanted to protect their brand. But it wasn’t clear that America was ready for Kandyskope. Within a couple of months, the manufacturer was scolding retailers who couldn’t manage to move the product:
Why does Kandyskope sell well in one store and not the other? The Kandyskope is an intelligent candy toy. It appeals to the intelligent buyer. It has to be demonstrated intelligently to the customer. That is why it is sold by the highest class stores. Do not put it in stock if you cater to cheap trade exclusively.
Alas, it seemed that candy toys requiring demonstration were not destined to become big sellers, at least not when they were surrounded by self-explanatory sorts of candy. Kandyskope disappeared not much later.
But that’s not to say some enterprising candy oculist couldn’t bring it back!
Sources: Kandyskope advertisements in International Confectioner 1913. Kandyskope Trademark Serial Number 70,972 (Oct. 1913). On toy novelties and penny candy, see Wendy Woloson, Refined Tastes: Suger, Confectionery and Consumers in Nineteenth Century America pp. 43-49.