150 year old candy hidden in Harvard Depository
Amazing find… in the Harvard Depository is a box, and in the box are samples of candy lozenges produced by Boston candy-maker Fobes & Hayward, way back sometime around 1870.
I have not actually seen this candy in person. I was at Harvard to look at a book, the NCA’s 1907 report on candy poisoning allegations called “Facts,” only one copy of which exists. It was totally worth the trip.
And then, poking around in the Business Library Historical Collection, I stumbled on a reference to a box containing “lozenges and labels” associated with business records of Ball & Fobes (which became Fobes & Hayward, which merged with a couple of others to become NECCO). Alas, the box was off-site in the depository, and I only was there for the day, so I couldn’t actually look in the box. But by a stroke of good luck, the very helpful reference librarians were able to track down pictures of the contents.
Amazing! They are pale pinkish and brownish flat opaque disks. The substance looks like Necco Wafers, chalky and dry. These style lozenges were the forerunners to our wafers. The shape is obviously machine made. They are round with scalloped edges. Each is stamped with a cameo-like bas relief. The detail on the images I looked at is murky, but they appear to be animal and classical type scenes; one looks like a woman holding a vase or urn, another looks like maybe a deer. I can’t tell what size these are, there is no scale reference.
Dating the lozenges: There are several labels that are in the same collection. It is impossible to know whether they are contemporaneous with the lozenge candies, but assuming they are, they provide some clues to dating. The labels read “Fobes & Hayward.” The puts the date after 1865, when when Ball & Fobes became Fobes & Hayward. The labels are for lozenges, comfits, and sugared cardamom and flagroot. These are candies that lean more toward the early nineteenth century than towards the developments of the 1880s. So I think it is unlikely that these lozenges are older that 1880, and I’d be comfortable putting them closer to 1870.
I can’t wait for my next trip up to Boston. I really want to see that box, and put my hands on, or at least near, such an amazing piece of candy history.