Posts filed under ‘Children and Candy’

Whither Halloween Candy?

Jack-o'-lantern bucket filled with Halloween candy

I say Halloween, you say… candy, right?

It seems pretty obvious. Look at all that Halloween candy lining the shelves down at the CVS!

But back in first half of the twentieth century, there was no such thing as “Halloween candy.” Candy was big at Christmas and Easter, but Halloween wasn’t on the candy calendar at all.

Today the association of Halloween and candy seems natural, inevitable. But 100 years ago, there were many holidays that were equally un-candified. Christmas was the first, most “natural” candy holiday; it was an easy leap from oranges and cakes to candy sticks and chocolate boxes. The candy trade didn’t have to do much more than put their product out there. But other candy holidays were made, not born. The first candy promotion holiday success was Easter. Candy makers emphasized molded candies for the holiday, most of which look just like the Easter candies of today: bunnies, chicks, eggs. But in the days before trick or treat (which was not popularized until the late 1940s), there wasn’t an obvious use or demand for candy at Halloween, or at any other holiday for that matter. If candy sellers noted Halloween at all, it was as a theme for window displays which changed every month with the seasons.

In the years around the first World War, modern ideas of promotion and advertising became increasingly important in the candy business (as in all other businesses). It was obvious that holiday tie-ins could sell candy, but candy boosters in the 1920s were just as likely to aim for Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day or the 4th of July as likely candy holiday contenders.

Candy visionaries like V.L. Price, former executive secretary of the National Confectioners Association, urged a full-bore assault on Halloween in a speech he gave at the NCA convention in 1922:

Have you any doubt, if manufacturers would create special “Hallowe’en Candies” and retailers in large numbers would feature special displays and sales on Hallowe’en, but that it would greatly increase candy sales on that day, and in doing it, would eventually make Hallowe’en a candy season.

Price pretty much nailed it, but he was way ahead of his time. It would be more than 30 years before Price’s vision of “Halloween Candies” would really take off in the late 1950s.

So what changed? Trick or treat seems an obvious source of Halloween candy demand. But the earliest trick or treaters in the 1940s and 1950s didn’t expect candy. They got all kinds of stuff: nuts, fruit, coins, ice cream, cakes and cookies, novelties and toys. Candy was also a possibility, but way down the list.

It took many years for candy to become the “treat” of choice. Why? Impossible to give a single easy answer, but here are some of the influences. These first few are about the accidents of history, about how candy distinguished itself from the other possible treats:

  • Convenience. Candy came pre-portioned and pre-wrapped. Even in the 1950s, it would have been easier to give away Hershey bars than to bake cookies or wrap pop-corn balls. For a while, the cereal companies promoted single size boxes as trick or treat, for the same reason.
  • Marketing. Beginning in the mid 1950s, candy companies were pushing candy for trick or treat. New candy products were developed for the holiday, especially the mini-sized bars and small bags of loose candy like candy corn marketed especially for trick or treat. Over the decades, marketing and packaging for Trick or Treat became a bigger and bigger factor.
  • Candy as a controlled substance. This one is a little more mushy, but I wonder if part of the reason candy became the exclusive treat for Halloween isn’t because kids were getting less candy at other times. Increasing parental control and new ideas about health made kids in the 1970s much less likely to have independent access to candy than kids in the 1950s. So the candy debauch of Halloween became extra important.
  • Halloween sadists: the razor blade in the apple. The fear that kids might be harmed by malevolent strangers was probably the factor that sealed the fate of candy at Halloween. If there was a possibility of poison or needles or razor blades being added to cookie doughs and apples, the only “safe” treat was the one sealed at the factory. Home made and unwrapped treats went straight to the garbage can.

Now that candy so decisively dominates the holiday, specific qualities of candy make it seem to be the “obvious” choice:

  • Gluttony: If you are getting cookies and nuts and being invited in for some nice punch on Halloween, there’s only so much you can eat and it doesn’t hoard very well. In contrast, wrapped candies with long shelf lives  might inspire a more deliberate sort of massing and hoarding. But did kids start getting greedy because candy was being given out? Or were they already greedy, and candy just made it easier? Put another way,  did adults start buying candy to give away because they observed that kids were hoarding, and decided to make it easier? Or did kids start hoarding more when candy came their way?
  • Treatiness. If the treats are sweet, what is sweeter than candy? Surveys indicate that what kids want above all on Halloween is candy.

A recent development suggests that candy’s vice hold on Halloween may not be so tight, at least so far as the adults who purchase the lion’s share of the treats are concerned. I’ve been noticing in the past couple of years more and more alternative snacks packaged as Halloween give-outs: little pouches of pretzels, mini Oreos (with orange filling), Rice Krispie Treats, and even pop corn balls. More and more I hear of people deciding to give out other pre-packaged kiddie snack items like juice boxes or single-serve potato chips. And this year the California Milk Processors are urging parents to give out chocolate milk instead of chocolate candy.

All of which hearkens back to the earliest times of trick or treat, when treats could be quite various.  The difference of course is that back in the 1940s Mrs. Johnson might give out cakes or cookies that she had baked that afternoon. And if Mrs. Johnson was handing out nuts or raisins, they were loose and unwrapped. Today Ms Johnson is buying factory-sealed, shelf-stable, brand name versions of all manner of snackables. And she’s buying them because she just doesn’t feel right about handing out candy. Are the kid’s preferences changing too? I’m not sure.

It’s not just Halloween that seems to be shifting into a different candy key. Candy companies are diversifying into “healthy alternatives” as fast as they can. Does this mean we’ll be done with candy soon, having triumphantly moved into the Age of the Turnip? No. We’ll still have candy. It will just be called something else. There’s always something new under the mylar-wrapped sun.

Related post:

Candies For Trick or Treat in the 1950s

October 14, 2010 at 10:58 am 10 comments

Get Your Own Tootsie!

Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?

Life Magazine, 1 November 1943

Hey grown ups! Get smart! Do what the kids do: eat Tootsie Rolls!

Tootsie Rolls from the very beginning struggled to be accepted as a candy for adults. When they were launched in the early 1900s, they chose “sophisticated” browns and golds for the wrapping, packaged the penny pieces into larger boxes, and advertised heavily as a treat for all ages. (See my post Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not)

Fact is, kids may love candy, but they don’t have the big bucks. Alas, as you can see can see in this series of ads from the 1940s, Tootsie Roll candies seemed to just naturally roll back into the children’s candy market. And frankly, it’s no surprise. Tootsie Rolls are chewy and a little tough, and the spectacle of an adult gnawing on one of these big sticks of sticky is just a little undignified.

So to stir things up a bit, Tootsie Roll came up with the idea of an epic battle of the generations over control for the nation’s Tootsie Rolls.  In this next ad, things have really gotten out of control, with soldiers stealing Tootsie Rolls out of the mouths of babes:

Life Magazine, 26 October 1942

Did you catch that WARNING at the top? The Adult practice of stealing children’s Tootsie Rolls has grown to a national menace!

It is unclear whether the soldier’s job is to protect children from the “national menace,” or if it is the soldier himself who is the “national menace.” World War Two, the implicit backdrop for this ad, would certainly have been a lot more fun if it was just about wresting Tootsie Rolls out of the wrong hands.

And look at this poor little moppet who lost all her “beeyootiful, chocolate, chewy” Tootsie Rolls to the greedy grownups:

Life Magazine 23 Nov 1942

They brought the Tootsie Rolls for her, and then they ate them all up! No fair!

In all these ads, the adults are shown doing something sneaky or even criminal: they are spying on children, and stealing their treats. This makes the message a little confusing: one one hand, Tootsie is persuading adults that they too should eat Tootsie Rolls because they taste good and give you that “pep.” On the other hand, adults are “stealing” them from children, which seems to imply that the Tootsie Rolls really belong to the children. The ad tells adults to “get your own,” but the only way adults seem to be able to get candy is by pretending it is for children and then gobbling it up themselves. Hmm, with Halloween coming up, that might just sound about right…

Life Magazine 28 Sept 1942

Tootsie Rolls make adults into children, and children into little swaggering adults. This tough guy complains:

Gotta watch those grown ups! They sight a Tootsie, sink same.

Grown ups are naughty, and the kiddies have to keep an eye on them to keep them from swiping the candy. In this  installment, grown ups are depicted as ignorant as well:

Most of those Tootsie swipers don’t even know that Tootsies are pep food!

It’s the kid who knows that Tootsie candy is quick food-energy, while the grown ups only seem to care about the “chocolatety luscious flavor.”

My impression of these ads is that despite the explicit intention to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls, they seem to be reinforcing the message that Tootsie Rolls are really children’s candy. Given the nature of the Tootsie Roll, maybe failure was inevitable. By the 1950s, Tootsie had pretty much given up trying to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls. Ever after, the focus was on selling Tootsies to children directly and on selling Tootsies to adults as treats for children.

Rich in Dextrose for Quick Food Energy: if you’re wondering what all the dextrose excitement was about in these 1940s ads, see my posts on dextrose, candy, and food energy:

  • Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”
  • Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar
  • October 1, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

    Back to School: Chocolate Milk Wars

    Glass Of Chocolate Milk

    So, it’s back to school already. And the milk wars are heating up. Today’s NYT Food section has a great feature on the fight over schools offering chocolate milk as part of a “nutritious lunch.” Kim Severson, “A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk”

    Best quote of the article: “Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples.” Ann Cooper (she runs the Boulder CO school lunch program, one of the districts that is going back to school chocolate milk free).

    The key to the whole fight comes down, as all else surrounding food, to money: the schools only get federal lunch funds if your school lunch offering includes a grain, a vegetable, a fruit and a protein. And milk. And you only get the funds if kids take three of these five offerings. So chocolate milk, being a popular choice with the kiddies, knocks out one of the three mandatory picks. Given that the easy chocolate milk provides more leeway for kids to pass on mystery meat and gray “green” beans, schools are crying foul at attempts to insist that milk is milk, and chocolate milk is something else entirely.

    Back in November (2009), when the National Dairy Council started its campaign to save chocolate milk at the school lunch counter, I wrote a post somewhere else. It didn’t make it to Candy Professor then, but it seems just as timely now. So here it is, my two cents on the Chocolate Milk Wars:

    Have you raised your hand for chocolate milk? Or have you raised your finger?

    The National Dairy Council (farmers) has teamed up with the Milk Processor Education Program (processors) “to provide the latest facts and science on Chocolate Milk’s role in children’s diets.” Check USA Today (12 November 2009) for a full page ad, or the web site and petition at Seems those pesky activists and parents and nutritionists have gotten together again, and this time they want to take the chocolate milk out of the school lunch room. How dare they! After all, they say, “chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and kids will drink less milk (and get fewer nutrients) if it’s taken away.”

    Really? Would it be so bad if kids drank less chocolate milk? Yeah, I get that it’s made out of milk. But is it really food? Interestingly, the National Confectioners Association was what brought the chocolate milk promotion to my attention. You know, the candy industry.

    I have been thinking about candy in relation to food in the wake of Michael Pollan’s “defense of food.” Pollan encourages us to eat real food, stuff made from plants and animals in traditional, pre-industrial, recognizable forms. The highly processed, the inert, the “fortified,” the refined: these are products of industry, and not food so much as “food like substances.”

    Once we can discern the difference between food and “food-like substances,” our diet returns to something healthful and sustaining and simple. And if we are mostly eating food, then there is no harm in eating some candy. So long as we’re clear, that candy is not food, not a substitute for food, and not to replace or displace food. Candy is defensible as part of our diet only when we draw a sharp line between food, what we enjoy as we nourish our bodies, and candy, something we eat purely for pleasure.

    Which brings me to chocolate milk. Is it food? or is it candy? Although nobody says it this way exactly, this question is really at the crux of this latest flare up. In fact, this is just the latest salvo in a long-standing fight over the role of candy in school lunches. This was one the candy industry was probably fated to lose, but believe it or not, there was a time when candy was on the “approved” list. Clearly, if the fight now is about chocolate milk rather than chocolate bars, times have changed. But the terms of the fight have stayed eerily constant.

    Chocolate milk is an odd hybrid, with an interesting history of its own. In the nineteenth century, there really was no “chocolate milk” as we know it today. Chocolate in sweetened milk was for sick people, old people, people who couldn’t stomach much else. Chocolate was viewed as providing sustenance and strength to the weak and infirm, a sort of tonic with vaguely healthful properties.

    Chocolate milk in the twentieth century came to be increasingly associated with childhood. Prior to the “chocolate milk revolution” in the 1950s, cold chocolate milk was not really feasible. Hot chocolate was the childhood equivalent of hot coffee, a combination of sweetness and milkiness that seemed essentially infantile. But hot chocolate required heating milk (a delicate operation) and measuring and mixing at the stove. Not difficult, but not something kids would do alone. Instant chocolate milk mix changed the playing field: Nestle, Carnation, Ovaltine were all introduced in the early 1950s, a time when food engineering introduced the TV dinner and other “convenience” monstrosities to the American table. Now children could enjoy delicious chocolate milk any time, with no mess and no trouble. Ads for these products feature cherubic children and pudgy hands mixing and drinking dark brown elixirs.

    Chocolate milk was a big part of twentieth century childhood, to be sure. But chocolate milk at home as a snack or a treat in the context of all the other foods that mother has chosen is one thing. And for the most part, those 1950s kids were skinny and didn’t know a thing about diabetes or pediatric heart disease.

    For most U.S. kids in the twenty first century, chocolate milk every day on the school lunch line is something else. For kids with serious food and health issues, the line between food and candy needs to be drawn, and it needs to be crystal clear. And we all need to acknowledge: chocolate milk is candy. That is to say, chocolate milk should be enjoyed as a treat, occasionally, not as a daily beverage.

    They say kids won’t drink milk unless its flavored. They say at least chocolate milk has the nutrients of milk. They say it’s better than soda.

    By this logic, I should have a screwdriver with my oatmeal every morning. Because otherwise, I just won’t drink that orange juice.

    Teach kids to drink soda, they drink soda. Teach them soda is a bad choice, give them water, they’ll drink water. Chocolate milk is no different. Pandering to the lowest denominator, the sweet tooth, and insisting that children will do no better if given the chance is just patronizing. The school lunch programs are making huge improvements. In the New York City schools, they are eating the whole grain breads, they are learning about fresh fruits and vegetables. Alice Waters has her kids eating okra and kale, for pete’s sake. Will kids drink less milk when it’s not sweet chocolate? Some. But that’s because they had the chocolate to start with. We need a little re-education here. There is no reason they can’t learn to appreciate the difference between real food and nutritionally tarted-up candy.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm 5 comments

    More Smokin’ Candy

    Color me flabbergasted.

    It’s the “edible Puff Pop.” It is a lollipop. And a pipe. You eat it and you smoke it. And it does not appear to be a joke.

    It’s made by a New Jersey outfit called Smokeclear, Inc. You can see the press release here.

    Now there have always been all kinds of candy pipes and candy cigarettes. But they were just candy. You pretended to smoke them. Pretended, get it? And maybe kids acted all cool and mature and maybe these candy smokes led to all kinds of delinquency, and maybe not. But there was no actual smoke involved.

    The Puff Pop, on the other hand, is a functional smoking implement. The round lollipop has a bowl and a hole and you put your stuff in it and light it and smoke it through the hard candy. Stuff…I don’t know what, surely legal tobacco and not any other wacky weeds…

    These Puff Pops have been tried and tested: the bowl won’t crack or melt when you light your stuff on fire. And they come in yummy flavors: grape, lemon/lime, green apple, blueberry cola and strawberry. It is, as the manufacturer puts it, “an edible pipe that’s user friendly.” Smokeclear expects they will sell in smoke shops, but also in convenience stores. And candy shops, no doubt.

    Because that’s a good idea: edible lollipop pipes. I’ve just spent two weeks researching lollipops and their associations with children, and now this. People, WHAT are you thinking?!

    Related posts:

    August 2, 2010 at 8:59 am 4 comments

    A Sucker? or a SCOUT Sucker?

    When I say lollipop, what comes to mind? Dum Dum? Tootsie Pop?

    Well, if it were 1920, you’d probably think first of the Scout Sucker.

    Back in the early 1900s, there were suckers, sure. And every candy shop, no matter what other sorts of candy they sold, was sure to sell lots of suckers. But there was nothing distinctive about them. They were all more or less alike, no package or wrapper or brand to distinguish one from another. And a kid would just say “give me a sucker” and get whatever kind the shop happened to sell.

    Scout Sucker was the first one to come in a special box with a special wrapper, and an ambitious advertising campaign to back it up. So instead of asking for suckers, kids started asking for Scout Suckers.

    The man behind Scout Suckers was named H.W. Faulkner. In 1912, he was a scrappy 15  year old scrubbing out tubs in an ice cream parlor. But he had big dreams, and the way to riches was paved with candy. He got a bit of capital together, and by 1917 had his own little manufacture going in a basement. Faulkner knew from the start that it was all about branding and advertising. Of his first $900 investment, he put 20 percent into advertising. His business strategy was a success. Faulkner Candy grew and grew; by 1920 Faulkner had moved to a huge new factory in Mount Vernon, Illinois and was churning out millions of Scout Suckers. Faulkner was all of 23 years old.

    The factory was a model of modern manufacturing efficiencies. As you can see in the picture, it was built next to the rail road line and boasted its own side track. This meant that supplies could be shipped directly by rail car; corn syrup arrived in tanks and was piped into the basement, saving on the costs of unloading barrels. The corn syrup and other ingredients would be pumped to the top floor, where manufacture began, the goods being drawn ever downward by gravity until they would arrive in their final boxes at the bottom floor, flying out the chute and into customers’ waiting mouths.

    By the way, Americans didn’t used to call them “lollipops.” That’s an old word with a more general meaning, usually given as “sweetmeat.” The word was frequently used to denote something trifling and enjoyable; “Mrs. Lollipop” and “King Lollipop” were frequent characters in children’s stories of the nineteenth century, and “Lollipop” was also the name of an early 1900s literary magazine. In the early 1900s, Americans typically called candy on a stick an “all-day sucker” which soon was shortened to “sucker” simple.  Notwithstanding the adorable Shirley Temple warbling about the “Good Ship Lollipop” in 1934, here in the U.S. the word “lollipop” to mean exclusively candy on a stick does not seem to have been universally accepted until the 1940s. But then, “On the Good Ship Sucker” wouldn’t have been quite so catchy.

    P. W. Hanna, “Men and Methods: H.W. Faulkner” System, the  Magazine for  Business, March 1922 286-87, 310. Scout Sucker and factory images from Faulkner advertising in Confectioners Journal, February 1920.

    July 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

    Suckers: From Candy Sticks to Candy on a Stick

    Who was the first to put a blob of candy on a stick and call it a “sucker”?

    close-up of a lollipop

    It seems like a pretty obvious idea now, but back in the 1800s candy makers didn’t just have sticks lying around. They made “candy sticks,” and you could suck on that.

    In Canada the innovation is credited to Gilbert and James Ganong who ran a grocery in St. Stephen. The story goes that they had some of the sticks butchers use to fasten meat, and they hit on the idea of pressing the stick into a warm piece of candy. This was in 1895, and the candy on a stick was a big hit, spreading across Canada in a few short years.

    On this side of the border, we don’t have any particular contender for the honorary title of “inventor,” but we do know that by 1900 the phrase “all-day sucker,” meaning hard candy on a stick, had passed into common idiomatic use.

    And not everyone approved. A Pennsylvania teacher writing in 1900 laments the lassitude and distractibility of the child whose attention is overly focused on candy:

    I ask the pupils…above all things to avoid that demoralizing ‘all-day sucker.’ I have never yet had a child who was persistently devoted to this candy who was of any account. One can buy four all-day suckers for a penny, and there is something so exasperatingly self-satisfied in the child who starts to school in the morning with three of these pieces in his hand and one in his mouth!

    Four all-day suckers to a penny! Another writer remembers the price at two to the penny, and recollects his fondness for the sweets:

    In my youthful days they used to have what they called an all-day sucker, selling at two for a cent, from which any reasonable human being of ordinary suction-power could extract a steady stream of unalloyed bliss for twenty-four hours, or, if he worked on the thing for one eight-hour shift per day, for three solid days. My idea of Heaven used to be a Harp, a Halo, and an all-day sucker ever ready for my need. (1916)

    That price was bound to rise; by 1920, when sucker manufacture really took off, the typical sucker would cost a penny a piece.

    And what about the sticks? Today we’re used to paper or plastic to hold our candy upright, but back in the 1900s it would have been wood. Who was cutting up all those little sticks for suckers? It must have been tedious work. Finally around 1925, someone came up with a machine to cut up boards into little sucker sticks, at the rate of 50,000 sticks per hour.

    And one last thought on those sticks. Maybe you remember the famous line from the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) when Sugar Kane Kowalczyk says “Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.” Here’s the same sentiment, circa 1896:

    She was sitting on the curbstone,
    And she wept and sobbed aloud,
    While her little friends stood near her
    In a sympathetic crowd.
    “What’s the matter, dear?” I asked her;
    “Are you hurt or are you sick?”
    “No; I’ve sucked my all-day sucker,
    Till there’s nothing left but stick!”
    Well, a penny cured her trouble
    With another “sucker” quick;
    But why is it that life’s taffy
    Nearly always ends in “stick?”

    —Bessie Chandler.

    Sources: Candymaking in Canada: the history and business of Canada’s confectionery industry By David Carr (Dundurn Press Ltd., 2003); “Snappy Recitation: How to Make a Recitiation Snappy and the movement Brisk” Pennsylvania school journal, Vol 48 no 12 (June 1900): 547-550 ; John Kendrick Bangs, “The Genial Philosopher,” The Independent, Nov. 27, 1916, p. 372“Making of ‘All-Day Sucker’ Sticks is a New Industry,” Popular Mechanics Nov 1925 p. 744 ; Bessie Chandler, “A Grief and a Reflection,” The Times and Register. (Philadelphia and Boston) Vol. 32. Oct 24, 1896  p. 360

    July 19, 2010 at 11:58 am 1 comment

    News Brief: Moms say NO to Candy Camp

    Candy Camp. I’m serious. Five days a week, fun and games, and candy. Candy!

    Dylan Lauren, camp director and impressario of the famed “Dylan’s Candy Bar” in Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side promised that candy would be “incorporated into every aspect of the camp.” Sign me up! Oh, wait, it’ s only for the 3-5 year old set.

    And guess what: not a single taker. Seems that while Upper East Side moms are happy to bring their tots to Dylan’s for a little supervised romping in the land of sweets, handing them over to the Candy Lady was just a bit too much. What does that mean, anyway, “incorporated into every aspect”? No one knows for sure why the camp flopped, but my guess is that moms suspected that the plan was to stuff Max and Mimi with lollies from 9 until noon. Happy Max and Mimi! But not very educational.

    We love giving our children candy, it seems, but only under our close parental supervision. Otherwise, what might happen! Heavens!

    If you’re interested, Dylan says they are planning to try again next year.

    It was the WSJ that broke this story: Yuliya Chernova, “Can Summer Camp Be Too Sweet,” July 9, 2010.

    Image: Dylan’s Candy Bar at Flikr

    July 10, 2010 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

    Candy Taxes and Champion Shoppers

    In 1921, Congress held hearings to deliberate the removal of a 5 percent “excise tax” levied on candy manufacturers in the wake of increased national war expenses. The National Confectioners Association, representing some 75 percent of the nations’ candy manufacturers, sent Hubert Fuller as their representative to argue against the special tax  and explain why candy, among all the goods which had fallen under the new taxes, should be exempted. Fuller was an attorney, not a candy maker, and his testimony shows skill in the legal arts of dodge and spin. But his pleadings also provide an intriguing glimpse into the state of candy during the first World War and just after.

    When the Congressmen thought of candy, it seemed they were thinking of the kinds of candy they were likely to buy for the missus: a nice box of hand-dipped chocolates, selected from a fancy department store candy counter and selling for a dollar or more per pound. These luxury goods seemed fair game for raising extra revenue.

    But Mr. Fuller meant to portray the candy business as primarily a business of cheap goods and slim profits. He pointed out that more than 80 percent of the candies produced in the country were “penny” candies and 5 or 10 cent items. You would find these cheaper candy goods in neighborhood shops, in general stores, in “5 and 10 cent” shops. But these stores would not only be selling candy. They had many offerings to entice the pennies and nickels and dimes. And so was it fair, Mr. Fuller demanded, that candy should be taxed, while the rest of the penny universe was not?

    Mr. Fuller described the many dazzling alternatives to candy that you might also find at the candy shop. There were other delicacies like cookies, fancy crackers, raisins, stuffed dates, salted nuts. There were toys like marbles, tops, balloons, “squawkers,” paints and crayons [if you know what a squawker is, please tell!]. If none of these were to be taxed, then surely the discriminating customer would gravitate toward the better values for his or her precious pennies and nickles.

    The tax on candy manufacture also seemed to unfairly single out confectioners, even when bakers were making sweets that seemed awfully close to candy. The chocolate coated marshmallow on a cheap cookie that was made in a bakery, for example, would not be taxed as candy (something like today’s Mallomars). A Denver candy manufacturer sent a letter to Congress describing a local bakery selling these at 5 cents, in direct competition with the 5 cent candy bars that he was manufacturing. But where the candy maker would give over 5 percent as tax, the baker would pocket that same 5 percent as profit. The Denver candy man imagined a grim future: “they can easily put the candy factories out of business so far as the 5 and 10 cent bars are concerned.”

    Today many states are expanding their sales tax to include candy, but exclude “food.” If it has flour, it’s still considered food, even if it looks and tastes like candy. When we look back at this tax testimony from 1921, we can see that even then it was a widely accepted idea that “baked goods” were different from candy in some essential way, and therefore not taxed for extra revenue.  But we can also see that the line between “candy” and “baked good” could be quite tenuous.

    My favorite moment in the testimony comes when Mr. Fuller explains why children in particular will not stand for the increase in the cost of candy that will come about as a result of the excise tax:

    I wish, gentlemen, we could take a child into a store in your presence and give that child a nickel and you could see the child consume half an hour or an hour of the time of the proprietor of that store shopping. Gentlemen, the child is the champion shopper of the country, and he will determine then whether he is getting a penny’s worth or a nickel’s worth or a dime’s worth of candy, or whether he is going to go out and buy something that is not paying any of these taxes, such as the tops or the squawkers or the marbles or these other things.

    The child is the champion shopper of the country! Now that is something.

    Here at Candy Professor, we are finding that candy explains everything. So now let’s explain the sorry state of American household finances today from the candy perspective.

    Since the 1980s, children have been deprived of the chance to wander into a store with a fist full of their own money and figure out if the nickel candy really is a nickel’s worth of candy. So when they grow up, they don’t know a nickel’s worth.

    If you’ve never properly shopped for candy, how can you possibly be expected to shop for an exotic adjustable balloon sub-prime mortgage?

    Source: Hearings on Internal-Revenue Revision before the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, July 26-29 1921. Candy and Confectionery, testimony of Hubert B. Fuller, representing the National Confectioners’ Association

    June 4, 2010 at 8:16 am Leave a comment

    Smoking Smarties

    You may recall a recent post here at Candy Professor about an old time, long gone candy idea called the “Candy Feeding Bag” that involved sucking flavored powder through a licorice straw. Candy diva Cybele May commented that such an apparatus seemed more about choking hazards and coughing fits than about candy taste. This seemed funny to me, and even funnier when Cybele informed me that kids are doing just that: inhaling, and puffing, and even snorting candy powder, made from smashed up Smarties.

    Whaaaa? Yes, it may not be news to you, but it came as news to me: last spring (that’s 2009), teens were doin’ it: “smoking” pulverized Smarties.

    No fire is involved. The smoking is more of a special effect. The point, it seems, is to create the effect of blowing smoke with candy powder. Some talented kids can even blow out their noses and make smoke rings (an impressive talent, but one, I fear, that will not likely get them into Harvard).  Since we at Candy Professor are committed to documenting and preserving the cultural candy record, we take up smoking Smarties now, albeit belatedly.

    Why, why, why, would kids want to inhale or snort sour candy powder? What is wrong with these kids today?

    OK, I know one good reason: it drives certain adults crazy. And another reason, unique to our age: you can get 60,000 hits on YouTube and find yourself featured on FoxNews if you perfect your technique. (Did I mention about how this probably won’t look so great on your college applications? Listen to the Professor, kids.)

    Because even if it’s just “pretend smoking,” it looks like a gateway to the real thing, which is definitely not good. OK, I’ll say it: Kids, don’t smoke. But let’s face it. As long as adults have been smoking, kids have been smoking. From that perspective, we should be thankful for those candy cigarettes and chocolate cigars that started showing up at the local candy shop in the 1890s. At least those didn’t foul up the air or blacken your lungs.

    Eventually adults started realizing that kids’ smoking was kind of a bad idea. And those candy cigarettes? Obviously sending the wrong message. They were not quite outlawed, but serious pressure from the FTC around 1966-67 helped the tobacco companies and their candy allies to see that maybe a lower candy cigarette profile would be a good idea. Candy cigarettes with packaging imitating popular brands like Camel and Marlboro continued to be sold at kiddie candy counters well into the 1970s. You have to look harder these days, but candy cigarettes have never been made illegal, and in fact there is a wide array of candy versions of cigarettes and cigars to be had, if you know where to look (for example, sells them).

    In the 2000s, though, everybody knows to teach the kiddies that smoking is bad, and there are no candy or bubble gum cigarettes at your local CVS. We’ve got the education, the anti-smoking ads, the negative reputation of smoking, and we took away the candy cigs. And still: those blasted kids are pretending to smoke! This time around, instead of the pressed sugar to look like the actual cigarette, it’s pulverized candy to look like the smoke.

    Now, I remember hazily my high school days, and if I recall correctly, we tried smoking all kinds of things. I’m talking banana peels, oregeno, eraser rubbings. All perfectly legal, of course. And needless to say, I didn’t inhale. But kids trying to smoke stuff, or light stuff on fire, or create the effect of smoking, well, it’s not a new thing.

    In fact, these Smarties smokers aren’t playing with matches. And no one thinks there is anything remotely drug-like in the Smarties that would make anybody “high.” Kind of a nerdy version of bad-a** behavior, when you think about it. The worst that happens is coughing and irritation. Although some doctors speculated you could end up with maggots in your nose, feeding on the sugar powder….

    The real victim here is the beleaguered Ce De Candy company, makers of Smarties and… oh, just Smarties. But they come in lots of flavors. Smarties are one of those classic American candies, going back to 1949. And they have a cute web site.

    Already, Smarties had a reputation as the kind of candy you give out at Halloween if you’re really cheap and you really don’t like kids. Now this. Eric Ostrow, Ce De vice president for sales and marketing, sounded a little mournful when the Wall Street Journal asked him about all the attention:

    It could be done with anything made with sugar and compressed — Necco Wafers, Conversation Hearts, SweeTarts. Lik-M-Aid is already pulverized and so is Pixy Stix. I don’t want to be complimented that we’re the No. 1 choice.

    But it’s pretty funny. You can blow Smarties smoke to look like you’re smoking when you’re not, or you can suck on one of those new Camel Orbs, so no one will know you’re smoking when actually you are. Crazy world.

    Related Post: Tobacco Candy

    Smarties Image: Uploaded by Wikipedia user CoolKid1993 under CC.  Sources: “Goddard Suggests Candy Cigarettes Be Discontinued,” New York Times June 15, 1966; Jocelyn Elders, Preventing Tobacco Abuse Among Young People, a Report of the Surgeon General, “Candy Cigarettes” (171-172); Dionne Searcy, “Just Say No….to Smarties? Faux Smoking Has Parents Fuming,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2009. Around the Blogs: Cybele reviews Giant Smarties at; Richard reviews candy cigarettes at The Bewildered Brit.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:10 am 14 comments

    Candy Bombs

    WestPac 02-04, Operation Iraqi Freedom 2

    As part of the unofficial side of the U.S. “hearts and minds” campaign in Iraq, helicopter pilots are flying a new kind of mission: candy bomb drops. Blackhawk helicopter pilots are launching the candy bombs as they fly over small Iraqi villages. The “explosions” distribute sweets as well as shoes and soccer balls to the local children. The shoes and soccer balls are donated by stateside charities for distribution to the kids. And the candy? It comes from the leftovers from all those candy care packages that arrive in U.S. military camps.

    Chase Rutledge, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot stationed in Iraq, described his missions:

    They used to be scared when we would drop them because there was a lot of fighting going on, and they don’t know about helicopters and what’s coming out of them. But now, it’s like a little treat. They’ll start cheering when they see us flying over, hoping something will come out.

    Rutledge and his buddies are doing everything they can to make a positive difference in the lives of these kids. I’m happy to know that the military forces are seeing their mission as helping and boosting up the local people.

    But I have to confess, even when the candy that falls from the sky is a welcome treat, there is something a little unsettling about the idea of “candy bombs.”

    And then there is always the possibility that the candy will be harmful instead of pleasurable. This was the claim back in the first World War, when reports started surfacing that German aviators were dropping poison candy on French and English villages. A New York Times correspondent reported on notices posted in French villages by the Mayor and Prefect, detailing the dropping of poison candy and cautioning citizens to turn all found candies over to the authorities. The correspondent adds:

    [This poison candy drop] strikes us as the last refinement of Prussian barbarism in its death throes. … Tell the readers of The Times, as best you can, what brand of enemies they have at last chosen to fight.

    It is difficult to know what really happened. This report, and other similar stories about the German poison candy drops, tended to be second hand, based on what the reporter had heard others witness or describe. No actual candy was produced to buttress the stories. In part, the appeal of these alarming tales might have had something to do with holding an image of your enemy as one so vile as to poison children with candy. And there is also a long tradition, going back to the 1890s, of bringing up the specter of poison candy whenever something bad happens (more on poison candy stories here).

    Candy poisoning stories in the U.S. tended, on closer scrutiny, to be more rumor and assumption than fact. So it’s also possible that the stories of war-time candy poisoning as part of the enemy’s attack might also have arisen out of popular ideas about candy. It is also possible, of course, that the Germans really were dropping poison candy out of airplanes.

    It was Otto Schnering, the founder of Curtiss Candy Company, who transformed the idea of candy bombs into a public relations stunt. In 1923, he dropped his first load of Baby Ruth candy bars over the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Curiously, the candy bars pelting down from the sky did not lead to mayhem and destruction. In fact, the spectacle of candy rain was so successful that Schnering did it again, expanding his airplane candy drop program to 40 states.

    But it wasn’t until World War II that candy bombing really took off. One WWII hero, Gail Halvorsen, became famous as the “candy bomber” for his role in the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift. As Halvorsen would guide his plane into the Templehof airfield in the American sector of Berlin, he would drop candy attached to parachutes to the children watching the planes land. Soon, other pilots got in on the candy action. By the end of the campaign, some 25 tons of candy has fallen from the skies and into the tummies of the grateful Berlin children.

    Sources: Nanette Light, “Helicopters Drop Candy, Shoes for Iraqi Kids,” The Norman (OK) Transcipt 29 April 2010; “German Aviators Drop Poisoned Candy,” New York Times 27 May 1917; Ray Broekel, “Otto Schnering Is My Name, Advertising is My Game,” The  Great American Candy Bar Book (Houghton Mifflin, 1982), p. 22; Andrei Cherny, The Candy Bombers (Penguin 2008).

    May 3, 2010 at 11:05 am 1 comment

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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

    All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
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