The Beginning of Candy

May 26, 2010 at 10:04 am 3 comments

Well, not the beginning of candy for all time. Let’s say, the beginning of the American candy industry.

1847. That’s the year Oliver Chase, a Boston druggist, came up with the idea of a machine to speed up the making of medicinal lozenges. There’s more about Chase and the invention of the lozenge machine in my first post on Oliver Chase here.

I come back to Chase today because I just recently found an image of what a “Chase lozenge” might have actually looked like:


This is an ad for the New England Confectionery Company, the inheritor of Oliver Chase’s original business. Today we assume that the Necco Wafer is essentially the same candy as Chase’s original lozenge. That’s what I thought, until I was this image.

Here we see that the Chase Lozenge was thicker than Necco Wafers. Also, in this ad, Necco lists “lozenges” separately from “wafers,” indicating that they are not the same goods.

The “Chase Lozenge” was still in the Necco line up in 1921, the year this ad was published. Necco had patented the name “Chase” and the logo with the big “C” for this candy, which tells us that they were worried about imitators who would try to profit by making similar lozenges and passing them off as “Chase” originals.

The Chase Lozenge is basically sugar paste: powdered sugar kneaded with gum arabic or gum tragcath (both edible binders) that could be molded like clay and then dried. Confectionery made of sugar paste would keep indefinitely.

So why would a druggist be messing around with lozenges, anyway? Oliver Chase, like all nineteenth century druggists, was familiar with the uses of sugar to make the medicine go down. I learned from Laura Mason’s book Sugar Plums and Sherbet about what sort of lozenges apothecaries might make in the nineteenth century. She explains that sugar paste in particular was a valuable medium for apothecaries working with only basic implements because the drug could be mixed in to the paste and the lozenges cut to regular size.  The advantage to these medicinal lozenges was that they would deliver a reasonably accurate dose, and that the medicine would be released slowly as the lozenge dissolved.

Chase was probably not the first to leave out the drugs and sell the lozenges as candy. But once the use of machinery started speeding up the process of making lozenges, they took off.  By 1890, one candy-making manual explained that machinery had transformed the making of lozenges:

Twenty years ago, lozenges were mixed and cut by journeymen confectioners…within the last few years, machinery  has been introduced which mixes, rolls, stamps and cuts, all the manual labor that is required is simply a superintendent..turning out many hundredweights a day.

I’ve seen countless variations and brands of lozenges and wafers advertised in the early 1900s. Kids would eat them in rolls, and grown ups would pass them around in the candy dish. We still have Necco Wafers today. And we still have something a lot like the Chase Lozenge.

These are just called “pink lozenges.’ I don’t see them around much. But if you find this candy, eat some and imagine you’re back in 1847.

Sources: Chase Lozenge ad appeared in Confectioners Journal Nov. 1921. Skuse’s The Confectioners Handbook (1890) is quoted in Laura Mason, Sugar Plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets (1998), p. 148. You can shop for pink lozenges and other old fashioned candies at End of the Commons.

Entry filed under: Candy Nostalgia, Heroes and Personalities, Myth Busting. Tags: , , .

The End of Candy News Brief: Sweets and Snacks Expo

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Matt  |  May 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Up until quite recently, you could still find these just about anywhere (or at least anywhere that sold Brach’s candies). It looks like Brach’s has discontinued them, as they do not appear among the product listing on the Farley’s and Sathers website. Too bad, because I actually kind of enjoyed these; they reminded me of sitting in church as a child with my grandmother. I guess that’s exactly why they got discontinued, though.

    Reply
    • 2. Candy Professor  |  May 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I didn’t find any “brand name” associated with these. I don’t remember the Brach’s, but it also might have been regional. My mental image is of those 99 cent bags of generic candy they sell at drug stores and gas stations.

      Reply
  • 3. Candy Machine Revolution « Candy Professor  |  November 8, 2010 at 9:42 am

    [...] Related Post: The Beginning of Candy [...]

    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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