Licky Sticky Hats

November 12, 2010 at 9:29 am 6 comments

You recognize this candy, I’m sure. Mexican Hats.

But when it was first introduced by Henry Heide in 1926, it had a different name: Wetem and Wearem.

Why change the name? I’m guessing it’s because the “wetem and wearem” campaign seemed a wee bit unhygienic. In the 1920s state health departments were busy examining candy for purity and hygiene, and while the candy was usually pretty good, the problem seemed to come with what kids were doing with the candy before they put it in their mouths. Heath inspectors were especially harsh with manufacturers of “double use” candy, candy in form of toys and novelties that was designed for play. Wetem and Wearem seemed to encourage the worst kind of germy fun: licking, sticky, falling to the ground, licking and sticking again, and then pop that germy dirty gob in your mouth and begin again.

Kids were likely keep up the same thing whether they were called Wetem and Wearem or Mexican Hats or anything else. But at least “Mexican Hats” kept Heide on the good side of the Health Department.

As for the new name “Mexican Hats,” I decline to speculate. The name seems innocuous enough today, and I suspect that most candy eaters like me assume it refers to the shape of the candy only. Of course, in the 1930s it is likely that it had a strong (and negative) stereotypical connotation. But rather than attempt to flesh that out, I think I will leave the distasteful and shameful prejudices of the 1930s in the 1930s.

How do these candies taste? About like you’d expect for a candy that spends more time on your forehead than in your mouth. They’re gummy and sticky, like Swedish Fish but gluier. Dental restorations be forewarned. If you’re looking for good eatin’, look elsewhere.

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Entry filed under: Candy Nostalgia, Children and Candy. Tags: .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pat Allen  |  November 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Oh, sorry, Professor but I beg to differ with you on the taste. I think Mexican Hats are the superior version of Jujy Fruits. I love ‘em! And, unless I’m mistaken, the green is still reminiscent of mint while Jujy Fruits have changed the taste of their green to something nondescript.

    Interesting that Heide made both. I never knew that. Jujy Fruits are sold in boxes, of course, but I’ve only ever seen Mexican Hats sold in bulk. Do you know if they’re packaged?

    Great blog and post!

    Reply
    • 2. Candy Professor  |  November 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

      Well, it is possible that my perception of the taste was skewed by the fact that I was expecting lime and got mint! Kind of like when you pick up the orange juice glass thinking it’s your milk.
      I must have seen them once in a box, otherwise I wouldn’t have known what they were called, but this one I bought in a bulk candy shop. I regret not buying more; we could have stuck them all over our bodies!

      Reply
  • 3. Loralee  |  November 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Of course, kids will stick stuff on their heads anyway. One mom whose kids were trying the “Sticky” candy experiment blogged about how her child stuck the candy together, then stuck it on her forehead. It was the natural conclusion to the experiment.

    Reply
  • 4. Patti  |  December 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Love this! What a great piece of candy trivia. It’s been a long time since I’ve had Mexican Hats. I’d say it’s high time to try them again!

    Reply
  • 5. Dschwalbe  |  December 13, 2013 at 10:32 am

    This is cool. I vaguely remember buying the Wet em and Wear ems in bulk. My friend called them by that name but there was no sign or anything on them. I thought he was crazy. This was in the late seventies early eighties.

    Reply
    • 6. thomasl  |  January 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      One of the most interesting thing about this candy, to my mind, is the spicy flavor of these little western hats– sort of the “spice drop of the juju fruit”. I love ‘em! They are hard to find, but a great foil to other jelly and gummy candies. Perhaps the mexican in the name is a nod to the spice or mild heat. Love the texture, too — a but stiffer and slightly pastier than the new soft jujy fruit (or maybe they are just always delightfully stale, due to lack of popularity. Thanks for the history on wearing them.

      On another thread, when did lemon tootsie pops appear? They disappeared in the early 80’s; were they an original flavor?

      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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