Here in the Library you’ll find books and other resources for understanding the culture and history of candy. Don’t worry, there’s no quiz in Candy Professor’s class! If you have any suggestions for further reading, I’d love to hear from you. There’s a box for comments at the bottom of the page.
Samira Kawash on Candy
- The Candy Prophylactic: Danger, Disease and Children’s Candy Around 1916 (Journal of American Culture 33-3 (Sept. 2010)
Was penny candy causing polio? How could children be kept safe from germs and disease when they kept putting dirty candies in their mouths?
- Gangsters, Pranksters, and the Invention of Trick-or-Treat, 1930-1960 American Journal of Play4.2 (Fall 2011)
Gangster trick-or-treaters, back before it was all about the candy.
Ever notice how those little Candy Land kids just keep going around and around? Why did they have so much time on their hands, and no where to go? The secret connections between America’s favorite pre-school board game and the mid-century polio ward.
Candy in the Big Picture
Sidney W. Mintz,Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York and London: Viking Penguin, 1985) is an indispensable study of the transformation of sugars uses and meanings over some five centuries. Mintz focuses on consumption, power, and trade in relation to Great Britain, but his account of the meaning of sugar in England is an excellent starting point for thinking about similarities and differences in the meaning of candy in the U.S.
Joanne Chen, The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008). Chen explores the history, science, psychology, and pleasure of America’s relation with sweetness. Sweets for Chen mean cookies, cakes, pies, desserts, ice cream, and chocolate. This book is incredibly useful for bringing together the latest knowledge from every corner as it impacts on what sweetness means in American culture. How strange that in a book on sweetness, she has almost nothing to say about candy itself.
Wendy A. Woloson, Refined Tastes: Sugar, Confectionery, and Consumers in Nineteenth Century America (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002). Making, buying and eating candy, ice cream, and sugar decorations up to about 1910. Woloson’s extensive archival research creates a rich and textured account of the uses and meanings of confectionery in the nineteenth century.
Susan J. Terrio, Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate (Berkeley: U of California Press, 2000). The invention of the artisanal chocolate “tradition,” the professionalization of the craft and the transformation of the meaning of haut chocolate. Ch 10 on “Chocolate as Self and Other” is a useful overview of the meanings of chocolate in French culture (and Euro-American culture more generally).
Steve Almond, Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2004). Part memoir, part travelogue, part journalism, as the author recollects his love for and life lived through candy bars, and visits small manufacturers across the country in an effort to recover and preserve the fast disappearing world of independent candy makers.
Jane Dusselier, “Bonbons, Lemon Drops, and Oh Henry! Bars: Candy, Consumer Culture, and the Construction of Gender, 1895-1920.” In Sherrie A. Inness, ed. Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender and Race (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), pages 13-49. This was Dusselier’s Master’s Thesis research; sadly, her thesis adviser persuaded her of the futility of “candy studies,” and she abandoned the project.
Gail Cooper, “Love, War and Chocolate: Gender and the American Candy Industry, 1890-1930.” In His and Hers: Gender, Consumption, and Technology ed. Roger Horowitz and Arwen Mohun (Charlottesville, VA: U of Virginia Press, 1998): 67-94.
Kathleen Banks Nutter, “From Romance to PMS: Images of Women and Chocolate in Twentieth Century America.” In Edible Ideologies, ed. Kathleen LeBesco and Peter Naccarato (SUNY Press, 2008).
Allison James, “Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions,” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 10.2 (1979).
Allison James, “The Good, the Bad, and the Delicious: The Role of Confectionery in British Society,” The Sociological Review 38.4 (1990): 666-688.
James D. McMahon, Jr., Built on Chocolate: The Story of the Hershey Chocolate Company (Hershey Foods Corporation, 1998) The official Hershey story, illustrated with extensive images from the Hershey archives.
Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars (New York: Random House, 1999). Brenner is the only journalist to gain inside access to the workings at Mars, Inc. A gripping tale of the rise of the kings of the American chocolate industry and their quest for global candy domination.
Michael D’Antonio, Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006)
Jan Pottker, Crisis in Candyland: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire (Bethesday, MD: National Press Books, 1995)
Margaret Moos Pick, See’s Famous Old Time Candies: A Sweet Story (Chronicle Books, 1995). Official corporate history, with lots of old time photos. Charles A. See was the inspriration for Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, according to legend.
Ray Broekel, The Great American Candy Bar Book (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,1982) and The Chocolate Chronicles (1985). The lost world of American candy bars, and the stories behind them. See also the chapter on Broekel in Steve Almond’s Candy Freak.
Steve Almond, Candy Freak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2004) is creative, compelling, and unclassifiable. Part memoir, part travelogue, part popular history, Almond waxes nostalgic for the lost candy world of post-war America, and travels on a journey to preserve the memories and commemorate candy triumphs of the last of the independent confectioners.
Rich Cohen, Sweet and Low: A Family Story (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006) Weaves the history of sugar substitutes with the history of the family behind Sweet ‘N Low. Cohen helped me think about the relation of diet and sugar substitutes to the pharmaceutical industry. Cohen tells an engrossing story of the corporate and personal battles fought over the enormous and lucrative sugar substitute market.
Beth Kimmerle, Candy: The Sweet History (Portland, OR: Collectors Press, 2007). A lavishly illustrated compendium of classic stories of American candies and American candy makers. Especially notable for the amazing images of twentieth century candy packaging and advertising.
Candy Industry: Historical Sources
Alma Austin, The Romance of Candy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938). A comprehensive account of the origin and development of the candy industry (as of 1938) intended for both general readers and confectioners. The organization and style are informative rather than entertaining. Chapters are devoted to various raw materials and flavorings, manufacturing processes of different types of candy, packaging and merchandizing, and a chapter on “candy and health” assembling approving quotations from scientific and medical authorities as to candy’s beneficial effects in the diet.
Chicago’s Candy Kettle (Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Illinois, 1941). This peculiar pamphlet is one of many such documentations of industry funded through the WPA during the depression. This work profiles the major Chicago confectioners of the day in a playful style, punctuated by delightfully artless pencil sketches. While this document is of dubious authority, it is an important artifact showing the scale and significance of candy business in this period.
Philip Gott, All About Candy and Chocolate. A Comprehensive Study of the Candy and Chocolate Industries (Chicago: National Confectioners Association, 1958). This volume includes both historical and current information about candy, its ingredients and manufacture. But it also aims to provide specific and practical information about the candy industry from economic and scientific perspectives. For contemporary readers, the most interesting chapters include: candy in military rations, the nutritional value of candy, suggestions for using candy at home, and a chapter detailing the history of the NCA from 1884 to 1958.
Food and Diet
Harvey Levenstein, Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (Berkeley: U of California Press, 2003) The rise of the new nutritional science, 1880-1930. Reformers ideas about food “quality” in terms of calories, later in terms of vitamins, and the changes in cooking and feeding from both decline of servants and rise of new food processors.
Laura Shapiro, Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century
Waverley Root & Richard de Rochemont, Eating in America: A History (New York: The Ecco Press, 1981 ). This is the standard work on this subject. For the purposes of candy, see Chapter 29: “The Great American Sweet Tooth”: two pages on chewing gum. That’s it. The rest is soda, ice cream, sugar as a condiment. Did American’s eat candy? You wouldn’t know it from this history.
Richard J. Hooker, Food and Drink in America: A History (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981). Another standard work. Two pages on candies. Somehow Hooker determines that “most candies were made in the home.” The fantasy of fudge parties and taffy pulls.
Marion Nestle, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (Berkeley: U of California Press, 2002; rev ed 2007). The food industry needs Americans to “eat more” in order to grow their companies. How they do it. Nestle is especially interested in exposing the ways the food industry uses the political process to gain support for the sale of their products and to promote their benefits. See especially Chapter 1, “From ‘Eat More’ to ‘Eat Less,’ 1900-1990.”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (New York: Penguin, 2008). Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. To which Candy Professor adds: And if you do Eat Food, then you can also, every so often, just because it tastes good, Eat Candy.
Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites: the Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton NJ: Princeton UP, 1995). The mutual interplay between sacred and secular, church and commerce, in the celebration and selling of Valentines Day, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day.
Nicholas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford UP, 2002). Academic social and cultural history.
David J. Skal, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (New York: Bloomsbury, 2002) A more popularized account, with chapters on witches, haunted houses, gay parades, Halloween movies.
Karal Ann Marling, Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s Greatest Holiday (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000). A loving examination of the material history of Christmas. Candy as ornament and gift for the lucky children, Christmas candy season extra labor for the children who worked (box making, candy kitchens).
Peter Boyle, Sugar Works (1987) Peter Boyle, of Hoboken, New Jersey, trained and practiced for many years as a glass blower. He was one of the first to popularize sugar blowing techniques for use in decorative sweets and pastry. Today’s incredible sugar sculpting, as practiced by world-class specialist pastry masters, owes much to Boyle’s groundbreaking work. This volume is primarily a lesson in how to do it; a few color plates provide vivid examples of Boyle’s artistry, which in the 1980s represented something of a lost art.
American Craft Museum, The Confectioner’s Art (New York, 1988). This exhibition catalog provides a history of artistry in sugar, as well as examples of the finest spun, blown, and molded sugar arts. Especially interesting are examples of candy or sugar based word created by artists and sculptors who are not associated with pastry or confectionery.