Candy Machine Revolution

November 8, 2010 at 9:41 am 1 comment

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)

Related Post: The Beginning of Candy

Entry filed under: 19th Century, Candy Making. Tags: .

Back to Food Candy Doll Novelties in the 1920s

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sara  |  November 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I think some of what makes candy special is that it is so highly processed and manufactured. Just about everything else you could make at home or you can easily guess how they made it. But candy seems magical because it is. It can only be bought, not made, because you need a factory to do it. That is why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has so much appeal, the idea if you could see behind the curtain the process of making this wonderful stuff would be as wonderful as the product.

    Another food that has this characteristic is breakfast cereal. Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, Chex– these are manufactured products. You can not make anything like them at home. Both cereal and candy are constantly spinning out variations, aimed at children or as a guilty pleasure for adults (e.g., Frosted Flakes, “The taste adults have grown to love”)

    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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