Candy Machine Revolution
If you think candy is all about sugar and chocolate, you’re wrong.
Candy is all about the machines.
Sure, without machines you can make a bit of candy. And if we just ate a few pieces of fudge at Christmas and a bite of taffy once in a while, that might be fine. But America is a great candy eating nation! And to make the huge quantities of cheap candy that will put mounds of sweets in every store on every corner on every day of the year, you need machines. Machines for mixing and cooking and pouring and molding and cutting and wrapping revolutionized candy. Over a few decades at the end of the nineteenth century, American confectionery was transformed from a small, local craft into a huge industry.
Today we take the machines for granted. In the beginning, though, there was wonder and amazement at what a machine could do. Here is a glimmer from the very beginning, as described in a 1864 book on the “art of sugar boiling”:
Twenty years since [c 1840] it was considered rather a clever thing (with a pair of scissors, the principal tool a sugar boiler used) to cut a seven pound boil of acid drops to size, and with the help of a practised boy, make them round and press them flat, with the hands, in half-an-hour. The same quantity may now, with the machine, be made into drops, by the boy alone, in five minutes.
The machine meant that the same boy could be six times as productive. And the skill of working the machine was far less specialized than the craft of working hot sugar. Labor costs go down, productivity goes up, cheap candy zooms out of the factory and into the belly of the nation.
Source: Henry Weatherly, Treatise on the Art of Boiling Sugar (London, 1864) cited in Tim Richardson, Sweets: A History of Candy (Bloomsbury, 2002)
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