Posts filed under ‘1890 to WW I’
Here’s a cute poem published in the Confectioners Journal in 1910:
“The Chocolate Kids”
Goodness! What will keep these children quiet?
Folks go crazy at the riot.
We feed them candy, cakes and pie,
The more they get the more they cry.
What can have brought from tears relief?
The reason is, in words quite brief—
The only thing to make them smile
Is chocolate, chocolate, all the while!
Is it chocolate, chocolate all the while for you, too?
Even back in the 1900s, folks had a notion of the “addictive” qualities of chocolate. Take this example: following the 1909 National Confectioners Association annual convention in Detroit, rumors were flying that the candy makers were worried about the effects of a proposed duty on the cocoa bean. They though, papers reported, that higher prices for chocolate might mean consumers would turn to other, cheaper kinds of candy.
Nonsense! countered the Confectioners Journal. The secret of chocolate is this:
Chocolates serve as their own relish. The girl who has eaten one chocolate bonbon craves another. She craves in a still more active way after consuming the second and continues with uniformly accelerated craving until she has exhausted the boxful… There is a limit to one’s appetite for all confections save chocolates.
Sounds like chocolate addiction to me!
It wasn’t just girls who kept the chocolate makers in business. But this image of women’s weakness for chocolate is still with us today. If you’ve seen those Dove Chocolate indulgence ads, you’ll get a hint of the reason. Women savoring chocolate is a pretty sensual image. We can imagine the Victorian sensibility of 1909 being titillated and fascinated by the image of a woman getting pleasure over and over by eating and eating that box of chocolates.
Are women really naturally addicted to chocolate? Personally, my weakness is candy corn.
Sources: “The Chocolate Kids,” Confectioners Journal July 1910, p. 124; “Laments,” Confectioners Journal July 1909, p. 109.
Back before anti-bacterial soap and sanitizing hand gel and Lysol disinfecting cleaner, how was the average germophobe supposed to get rid of the darned germs? After all, you can’t see them, so it’s not like you can just pick them off your sweater like so much lint.
Bacteria were first identified under the microscope in the late 1600s, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that scientists began to associate these little buggers with disease, But even as scientists were fleshing out the “germ theory of disease” in the 1880s and 1890s, ordinary folks had their own ideas about what made you sick. A big contender was bad air. So one way of trying to help the sick get better was to fix the air in the sick room.
In some parts of Europe, people believed that burning sugar might do the trick. For a long time, doctors just watched their patients with their burning sugars and chuckled and shook their heads. It wasn’t really scientific, and it obviously wasn’t going to help, but at least it wasn’t hurting.
Then in 1908, Professor Trilbert of the Pasteur Institute at Paris decided it was time to actually test the burning sugar idea. He discovered something interesting: burning sugar gave off a gas called formic acetylene-hydrogen, a gas claimed to have with powerful antiseptic properties.
Trilbert reported on his experiment: After he burned some sugar under a glass bell, he put open glass tubes of the bacilli of typhus, tuberculosis, cholera, and smallpox in with the gas. Within half an hour all the microbes were dead, according to his reports. He even suggested a try-at-home experiment: if you put some burning sugar in a closed vessel with rotten meat, the rotten meat smell would disappear. So the sugar gas definitely was doing something.
Was all of this real? Hard to say. We need a house chemist here at Candy Professor. The best yours truly is able to discern, Trilbert’s “formic acetylene-hydrogen” is supposed to be some kind of derivative of formic acid. Formic acid is a powerful preservative and antibacterial agent used today in livestock feed. It gets its name from the ants, from whose bodies this chemical can be distilled. However, I cannot find “formic acetylene-hydrogen” anywhere in the digisphere, except with reference to Trilbert’s work. Did he discover this amazing sugar by-product? If he did, no one ever after was able to reproduce the results.
Real or (as we now suspect) entirely imaginary, Trilbert’s discovery was widely reported in American journals and magazines in 1909 and 1910. Good Housekeeping Magazine reported on Trilbert’s work in 1910. Readers of that magazine expected to be informed of the very latest in domestic science, and now burning sugar was added to the arsenal of the scientific household. Good Housekeeping included a practical tip on how to create the burning sugar gas effect at home: just sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over a pan of hot coals, and wave it around the room. Here was a new way for mother to keep the family well, or rather an old superstition dressed up with a fancy scientific imprimatur.
Too bad it didn’t work. Imagine, instead of the hospital smells of Vicks and Lysol, if your sickroom was filled with the lovely aroma of caramel. Maybe just the happy thoughts of candy would be enough to fight off the nasty colds
Sources: “Sugar as a Disinfectant,” Confectioners Journal, Dec.1908 p. 81; Good Housekeeping Magazine, March 1910, p. 413.
You’ve noticed all the Easter candy toy novelties on the shelves this time of year. Yesterday, my daughter and I were admiring a bird house filled with jelly beans, and a clever little bicycling rabbit with a swirly lollypop in the rear basket that spins around when the bunny pedals the bike. Cute, and irresistible to the under-6 set.
Toys and candy: they are both all about pleasure and fun, little frivolities to enjoy. Adult candies always seem more serious, even at Easter time, wrapped up in sober colors and full of luxury and decadence.
So what about Kandyskope? Here was an early candy toy novelty, from 1913, and it wasn’t just for kids. Kandyskope was for “young and old alike.”
And just what was a Kandyskope? Simple. Take a kaleidoscope, replace the little glass chips with hard candy pieces, and TA DA: Kandyscope! Right on the label, Kandyskope promised “the best show for a dime. Watch the actors, and then eat them!” Pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the palate, and only ten cents.
Children’s penny candies were often shaped like toys: little horses, dogs, guns, flowers, or stars. And children’s candy merchants often gave away little toy prizes with the candy to encourage customer loyalty, cheap little things like pressed tin soldiers or elephants, whistles, puzzles, or marbles. If you had Crackerjacks back in the 1970s or earlier, you remember those little toy prizes. Back in the 1900s, that’s the sort of thing the candy man might have dropped in your sack of penny candy.
Kandyskope aimed much higher. At ten cents, it was an offering for the more lucrative trades. And the whole point of Kandyskope was to be better: “superior in ingenuity, workmanship, and appearance.”
Shortly after its introduction in May 1913, the term “Kandyskope” was trademarked by its manufacturer, Leonhart H. Freund and Company of New York. They thought they were on to something big and wanted to protect their brand. But it wasn’t clear that America was ready for Kandyskope. Within a couple of months, the manufacturer was scolding retailers who couldn’t manage to move the product:
Why does Kandyskope sell well in one store and not the other? The Kandyskope is an intelligent candy toy. It appeals to the intelligent buyer. It has to be demonstrated intelligently to the customer. That is why it is sold by the highest class stores. Do not put it in stock if you cater to cheap trade exclusively.
Alas, it seemed that candy toys requiring demonstration were not destined to become big sellers, at least not when they were surrounded by self-explanatory sorts of candy. Kandyskope disappeared not much later.
But that’s not to say some enterprising candy oculist couldn’t bring it back!
Sources: Kandyskope advertisements in International Confectioner 1913. Kandyskope Trademark Serial Number 70,972 (Oct. 1913). On toy novelties and penny candy, see Wendy Woloson, Refined Tastes: Suger, Confectionery and Consumers in Nineteenth Century America pp. 43-49.
Every once in a while I run into an old candy idea that seems ripe for revival. Who’s going to be the candy entrepreneur who brings back “Candy Feeding Bags,” last seen back in 1911?
This one-cent novelty had a lot going for it: convenience, portability, and flavor. You could choose pineapple, strawberry, peach, raspberry, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, or peppermint. The tube running into the bag is a licorice stick, about 8 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. The idea is that you bite the end off the licorice then suck the flavor powder up through the licorice straw:
The powder mixed with the flavor of the licorice produces a combination hard to beat. When the powder is all gone then you eat the tube. Can you beat it?
Sort of like a Fun Dip or Lik-A-Stick crossed with a Pixie Stick, mixed in with a licorice whip.
Of course, in 1911 most people would associate feeding bags with work horses or mules. There still weren’t many motor cars around, so horses pulling wagons would have been a common sight. And to keep those horses working all day long, they would have a bag of grain tied around their snouts for easy snacking.
So why not a feed bag filled with candy? I love the idea of kids running around with these things tied to their necks. Keeps the kiddies happy with their candy feed all day long. Can you beat it? I don’t think you can!
Candy Feeding Bag ad from International Confectioner, April 1911. Feed bag image from Cowboy Showcase.
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”
Mary Poppins had the right idea, of course. Who wouldn’t rather take their medicine candy-style? As it turns out, the relation between candy and medicine has quite a history. Today, I have for you the story of what I believe to be the first medicine in the U.S. to be marketed nationally as a candy: Cascarets Candy Cathartic.
Cascara, the ingredient suggested by “Cascarets,” is derived from the bitter tasting bark of a species of buckthorn tree native to North America. Cascara had been prescribed by druggists and physicians as a remedy for constipation and related ills as early as 1877. But it was not until 1894 that the Sterling Remedy Company came up with a candy version which would turn out to be a huge blockbuster.
Cascarets were made as brown octagonal tablets reputed to have a “pleasant taste–almost as pleasant as chocolate.” They were put up in rectangular tin boxes of six tablets designed to nestle easily in a vest pocket or small handbag. Cascarets quickly captured the nation. Sterling had offices in Chicago, Minneapolis and New York, facilitating a national distribution of their product. They backed their roll-out with a $500,000 advertising push and incentives to retail druggists. By 1899, Cascarets were selling 5,000,000 boxes per year, and were poised to become the top-selling proprietary medicine in the U.S. (source)
Cascara is a powerful drug with unambiguous effects. As the science staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital explain, “Cascarosides increase intestinal motility and lead to propulsive contractions.” But around 1900, Americans didn’t just associate constipation with abdominal discomfort or gas or indigestion. Constipation for our great-grandparents was the root evil of just about every ailment and malaise you could think of. And for whatever was wrong with you, a laxative (or purgative or cathartic–the terms were used pretty interchangeably) would do the trick.
Cascarets Candy Cathartics were sold as the universal remedy:
When you have Heartburn, Colic, Coated Tongue, Suspected Breath, Acid-rising-in-throat, Gas-belching, or an incipient Cold, take a Cascaret. Remember, all these are not merely Discomforts, but indications of a serious Cause. …A coming Headache can be warded off in short order, by a single Cascaret, and the cause removed. Heartburn, Gas-belching, Acid-risings in the throat, and Colicky feeling are sure signs of bowel trouble from food poisons, and should be dealt with promptly. One Cascaret will stop the coming trouble, and move on the Bowel load, if taken at the first signs. ( 1905 ad)
Cascarets ads included every American as a potential customer: men and women, old and young. Even nursing infants would benefit it mama would take a Cascarets. But the real benefit in the new candy cathartic was the banishment of the old remedy: castor oil.
Doctors and mothers alike were desperate to find some way of avoiding the nightly struggle to force the nasty liquid down Junior’s screaming throat. Imagine the relief of American children when Cascarets took the place of the daily dose of castor oil. Here’s an ad for Cascarets from 1918 that pretty much tells the whole story:
We’ll let Jane and Michael Banks have the last word:
Never be cross or cruel, Never give us Castor oil, or gruel.
And with Cascarets, there would be Castor oil no more.
Some time ago, when I was poking around in the dusty archives looking for candy cookbooks with recipes for vegetable candy, I came across a curious item: Fruits and Candies, a recipe booklet from the early 1900s. It was published as a promotion for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a popular women’s “medicinal tonic” in the early 1900s consisting of various herbs and alcohol (18-20 percent, stronger than a big California Cabernet but about half as strong as Bacardi white rum).
This booklet features two sorts of entries: recipes for candies and sweet fruit desserts, and testimonials from ladies whose “female complaints” have been cured by a regular dosing with the Vegetable Compound. So one page offers a recipe for Maple Fondant, followed by a testimonial on the sorrows of childlessness and their alleviation with Lydia Pinkham’s. Another page gives instructions for Buttercups and Molasses Candy, and then a discursus on Painful Monthly Periods and the use of Vegetable Compound to alleviate them.
What struck me when I first saw this booklet was the complete strangeness of this juxtaposition. I filed this away under “hmmm.” Surely this odd combination must mean something, but what it meant I couldn’t yet fathom.
Now I think I have a much better idea. I have been reading about the “pure food” reformers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and particularly the women’s groups that organized against alcohol, drug abuse, and tainted food. These are the grass roots activists whose efforts brought us both Prohibition (something of a catastrophe) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA–not perfect, but one of the better consumer protection success stories of our time).
One big worry of many reformers in that era was the “patent” medicines: tonics and concoctions made of who-knows-what, peddled in carts and storefronts and by mail, and often containing narcotics (morphine, laudenum, cocaine, alcohol) that led the unsuspecting user who was just looking for a little “pick-me-up” down the merry path of addiction and ruin. The abuse of what the reformers called “habit-forming poisons” was not the intentional and direct narcotic abuse of opium dens or seamy city streets. Customers for the patent formulas were fancy ladies looking for a boost after a night on the town, exhausted mothers just trying to cope, women considered “nervous” or “weak” who saw in the tonics a cure for the mysterious ailments of femininity.
So one thing the Fruits and Candies booklet tells us is that the “target market” for Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was just those middle class women with the leisure and inclination to dabble in home confections. Somehow, these same women were the ones with numerous and sundry female complaints. And this is the interesting part, to me at least: the connection between middle class leisure, feminine complaint, and confectionery.
The reformers looked at Lidia Pinkham and the rest and saw addictive potions that would only make things worse. What these women needed was fresh air, good food, and exercise, not 20 percent alcohol “tonics.” One reformer in particular stands out: Ella Kellogg (1853-1920). Ella was the wife of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (he who brought us corn flakes breakfast cereal), and like her husband she took a strong interest in the importance of good nutrition. Ella believed that it was just those dainty confections that were causing all that nervous female illness. For Ella Kellogg, it was poor nutrition that led to the complaints that caused women to seek relief in the tonics.
Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and candy-making: to Ella Kellogg, the connection would have been quite clear. All that candy eating was making women sick, and sick women were turning to Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. To the innocent eye, Fruits and Candies is just advertising packaged to appeal to women by including women’s recipes. To Ella Kellogg and her sisters-in-arms, Fruits and Candies was everything that was wrong with American women.
More: You can browse a full digitized version of Fruits and Candies at Duke University Special Collections. For more on Ella Kellogg’s views of the relation between nutrition and the “patent” medicines so popular in the late nineteenth century, see Lorine Swainston Goodwin, The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914 (1999) (Sorry, this one is a paper book only, no link. Aren’t you glad we still have actual libraries? I am).
Image source: Vanderbilt Medical Center, via Wikipedia.
As reported in the Philadelphia North American on November 30, 1908:
Grubbstown, Pennsylvania, Nov 29. The astounding discovery has been made here that impure and decayed rocks are being used in the manufacture of rock candy.
How long this violation of the law has been going on is not accurately known, but certainly the fraud is widespread and thousands of persons have been cheated, if not positively harmed, by the men who have been carrying on their wicked work.
Special Agent Horatio Acornley, who has been investigating the matter for several weeks, says he can produce positive proof that several large candy manufacturers have been buying rotten rock at a low price and using it most exclusively in making rock candy.
“Thosands of innocent children have thus been exposed to the poison,” said Mr. Acornley, “and I would not be surprised to learn that it is responsible for many cases of hardening of the heart which have been reported to us.”
“As every one knows, only the best quality of rocks should be used…and we propose to bring suits against the guilty wretches.”
“In this connection I may say that I am looking into several cases of using poor limestone in making lime drops.”
Candy Professor adds:
It was these sorts of stories that made V.L. Price, the Chairman of the N.C.A. Executive Committee in the early 1900s, positively crazy. He was charged with responding to press accounts of poisoned or adulterated candy. So when the North American published this satirical piece, he put pen to paper to patiently respond, no, there is no rock in “rock candy,” only good pure sugar, and of course there are no limestones in lime drops either.
Which pedantry seems excessive, were it not for the fact that some time later Price found the Minneapolis Tribune publishing an investigative report raising the alarm about the use of crushed rocks in rock candy and limestone in lime drops. Price remarked wryly:
Of course, in gay Philadelphia they all saw the joke as it appeared in the paper’s columns as a fake, but in staid old Minneapolis they all took it seriously.
Or at least Marion Harland, the author of the Minneapolis piece, took it seriously. Just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers!
Source: V.L. Price, report to the National Confectioners Association Convention June 1909, as reported in Confectioners Journal July 1909 p. 73.
Have you ever wondered why Hershey’s Kisses are called “kisses”? Here’s the official answer from Hershey’s Inc:
While it’s not known exactly how KISSES got their name, it is a popular theory that the candy was named for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process.
Well, as for the first part, that “it’s not exactly known,” I can’t dispute that. Hershey’s has been planting their chocolaty kisses on the collective lips of America since 1907. No one alive today was witness to that first chocolate blob, or the “eureka” moment when someone shouted “It’s a Kiss!”
But that part about the sound of the chocolate dropping onto the conveyor belt? I’m afraid I’m going to have to pop a big old hole in that bubble of a story.
The fact is, back in 1907 you had your choice of kisses. There were generic flavored kisses like Cocoanut Kisses, Molasses Kisses, Nut Kisses, simple candies that anyone might make. Then there were the fanciful brand name Kisses: Sun Bonnet Kisses (National Candy Co, Chicago); Miller’s Violet Kisses (George Miller & Son, Philadelphia); Blue Bell Kisses (Robt. F. Mackenzie Co, Cleveland), Honey Corn Kisses (Wm. J. Madden & Co NY); Nethersole Kisses, Moonlight Kisses (United States Candy Co, Cleveland); Elfin Kisses (Caldwell Sweet Co, Bangor Maine); Heckerman’s Lucky Kisses: 5 cent box “assorted selected flavors.” My personal favorite wasn’t around in 1907, but I’ll mention it anyway since we’re on the topic of Kisses. The Novelty Candy Company offered around 1915 a pack of three flavors, cinnamon, molasses, and vanilla called Tom, Dick and Harry Kisses, “the kiss you can’t afford to miss.”
So when Hershey’s came up with a little bite of chocolate, calling it a “chocolate kiss” was sort of obvious. A candy “kiss” was just another name for a small bite sized candy, typically something with a softer texture. There were lots of other names for small bite sized candy at the time: drops, buttons, blossoms, balls. There was nothing at all special in 1907 about the name “chocolate kiss.”
In fact, the rival chocolate company H. O. Wilbur and Sons was the one who had come up with a proprietary name for their own bite sized chocolate: Wilbur’s Chocolate Buds. Wilbur had taken the important step of trademarking the name “Bud” for its chocolate in 1906.
But just as with today’s “xerox” and “kleenex,” the term “chocolate bud” was quickly coming to mean any sort of chocolate drop, and imitators were rushing in to sell their own “buds.” Things got so bad that Wilbur went to court to get an injunction against competitors trying to pass off their look-alike products as genuine Buds. Trade magazine advertisements warned dealers against accepting imitations and insisted: “there are no buds but Wilbur’s.” Ads taken out in popular magazines cautioned candy lovers to watch out for “counterfeits” and make sure their Buds were genuine Wilbur Buds.
When people talked about “chocolate buds” in the 1900s, its pretty clear that they are talking about Wilbur’s product or something very similar. A 1914 recipe for an ice cream sundae, for example, suggests sprinkle of “chocolate buds” on top. A 1911 publication suggesting ideas for money-making proposed that a woman going into the candy business might stock her store with “the finest chocolate buds, marshmallows, and different size cakes of the best milk chocolate.”
In contrast, the term “chocolate kisses” could mean just about anything small and chocolate flavored. In addition to references to candy, I found the term in late nineteenth and early twentieth century cook books to name different sorts of cookies. And in 1910 when the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture examined 336 candy samples for purity and accurate labeling, 13 of those candies were described as “chocolate kisses,” a generic category. Only one of those candies was a “chocolate bud.”
It wasn’t until after the end of WWI that the term “kiss” seemed to be increasingly associated with the chocolate drop. The November 1919 issue of Confectioners Journal included an ad from the Racine Confectioners Manufacturing Company for the “Racine Chocolate Depositor,” a machine that was for making ” Chocolate Kisses and Stars… cast on metal covered plaques without the use of molds of any kind….plain tubes for kisses, or with tubes for 5-6-8-10-12 point stars. Then in late 1921, L. Weiscopf of New York advertised a “Chocolate ‘Kiss’ foil Wrapping Machine” and boasted that it was “in constant operation in several of the largest chocolate manufacturing plants in the United States.” This is most likely they machine Hershey’s used, a machine that also allowed them to include the distinctive paper plume peeking out of the foil wrapper.
The marketing of these specialized machines suggests that, after WWI, Hershey’s chocolate kiss had become so familiar that when candy people wanted a general term for a conical drop of chocolate, they called it a “kiss.” But the fact that these machines were sold widely also tells us that others besides Hershey’s were making and selling chocolate kisses.
“Kiss” was, for most of the twentieth century, just a generic term for a bite sized candy. This is why for 90 years Hershey’s was unable to trademark the term “Kiss” as a name they could use exclusively for their chocolate kisses. Until a the late 1990s, every trademark application for logos or wrapper images for “Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses” included a limitation: the term “kiss” was always excluded. The trademark examiners insisted that “kiss” was a general term for a sort of candy, and according to U.S. Trademark law, you can’t claim a trademark for a general term like “milk” or “tissue.”
Finally, in 2001, Hershey’s won the trademark after a prolonged legal battle (U.S. Registration 2,416,701). Henceforth, only one candy could call itself a “Kiss.” Hershey’s lawyers argued that, despite a long history of general usage, by the 1990s America was persuaded that a candy called “kiss” always meant Hershey’s Kiss, and they commissioned a huge survey to prove it. The judge sided with Hershey’s, and a kiss became a Kiss ™.
Which was first: the Hershey’s Kiss or the Wilbur Bud? Read about the candy copy cats in my previous post, “Kissing Cousins.”
Just for Fun: You can read the legal briefs filed for and against “Kiss” on the U.S. Patents and Trademarks website. From “Trademark Document Retrieval,” enter the registration number 2416701. Choose the document dated 24-Feb-2009 called “Unclassified.”
Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses: do we need to say more? Everybody knows the Kiss. Hershey’s Kiss is certainly one of top contenders for “American Candy Idol.” But today, Candy Professor takes you back to a time when the Kiss was not the Kiss, back to a time when candy brands were still a new idea, and candy makers didn’t always know the best ways to profit from their candy innovations.
Hershey’s today is one of the major candy companies in the world, boasting annual sales in excess of $4 billion dollars. But around 1900, Hershey’s was one among many contenders for America’s top chocolate maker. The big business in chocolate at that time was not so much direct retail products, but selling various coatings and chocolate ingredients to candy makers large and small. Rivals like Stollwerck Brothers of New York and Chicago, H. O. Wilbur and Sons of Philadelphia, and Rockwood and Co.of Brooklyn were promoting their own chocolate goods, each promising purity, quality and taste unrivaled. Finished candy goods were, for many of these companies, a side line to the real action in wholesale cocoa and chocolate.
Milton Hershey was early to realize the potential for selling eating chocolate on a national scale. He developed his own technique for making milk chocolate and began manufacturing small batches in 1900. Hershey’s chocolate bars were a huge success, and he quickly expanded, moving to an enormous new factory in the town that would come to be known as Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1905. The first full year of manufacture in the new factory, sales of Hershey’s chocolate products topped $1 million; that’s about $24 million in today’s dollars.
By 1907, the year the Kiss was introduced, sales had doubled to $2 million. Even then, Hershey was a major player. But other chocolate houses had their own eating chocolate products. And when Hershey came up with the “Milk-Maid Chocolate Kiss” back in 1907, it wasn’t the only foil-wrapped chocolate bite in town.
Rival chocolate manufacturer H.O. Wilbur and Son had been selling a bite-sized foil-wrapped conical chocolate drop called the “Wilbur Bud” since 1894. You wouldn’t know it today, but back in the 1900s, Wilbur set the standard for those little foil-wrapped chocolates. The candy journal International Confectioner waxed rhapsodic over the beauty and hygiene of Wilbur’s candy in 1914:
Each piece is wrapped separately; they are packed like jewels. A large box of Wilbeurbuds can lie open several days before it is all eaten. … Our little Wilburbuds can’t go stale–each is wrapped in foil.
And Hershey wasn’t the only one. H.O. Wilbur even went to court in 1909 to try to stop the imitators. One of these might have been Rockwood’s Chocolate Dainties, which were sold four for one cent. In their little foil wrapper, they would have been indistinguishable from Wilbur’s Buds or Hershey’s Kisses or any other similar chocolate.
Unwrapped, the Wilbur Bud was quite distinctive; the bottom of the candy was molded into a flower shape and the letters W-I-L-B-U-R embossed in each petal.
In contrast, the Hershey’s Kiss then as now isn’t much to look at. It is just a plain cone, its bottom flat and unadorned. While this perhaps was less lovely to behold, it did mean the Kiss could be manufactured by dropping the chocolate on a flat belt, rather than needing special molds. This would eventually matter quite a lot, but in 1907 the Kiss’s plain-Jane looks would have been a distinct disadvantage.
The decisive moment for the Hershey’s Kiss was 1921, when new manufacturing equipment allowed the foil wrapping to be automated, and also allowed for the inclusion of the “plume” that extends from the top of every Chocolate Kiss. By spring of 1922 Hershey’s was taking out full page ads blaring “Insist upon having the “GENUINE” Sweet Milk Chocolate Hershey’s KISSES. Be Sure They Contain the Identification Tag ‘HERSHEY’S.” The plume was trademarked in 1924, meaning that no other conical foil wrapped chocolate could use the same technique to stand out.
Wilbur, and many other small American chocolate concerns, eventually fell behind Hershey in the race for market share. Milton Hershey was a generous philanthropist as well as a brilliant business man, and the success of the company in dominating the American chocolate scene is a fascinating story of doing well by doing good. Today, Hershey’s Kisses are a multi-million dollar share of the American candy market. And Wilbur’s Chocolate Buds? You can still buy them by mail-order, or out of a little Wilbur Chocolates storefront in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
So why are Hershey’s Kisses called Kisses, anyway? Read more in my next post, “Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss.”
Today we honor an unhailed hero of candydom: Dr. Bernard Fantus (1874-1940). He seems an unlikely candidate for the Candy Hall of Fame. He is remembered as the “father of the American Blood Bank,” the first to conceive of collecting and storing a wide variety of blood for surgical and emergency use. But Fantus was a man of many talents and passions, as we shall see.
In the early 1900s, Dr. Fantus was a Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Illinois, and also a practicing physician at Cook County Hospital. He was bothered by the difficulties that children had with taking their nasty tasting medicines. Why, Dr. Fantus wondered, should medicine taste like medicine? Let’s make it taste like candy. Good candy. So he set himself to the task.
Of course, being a medical man, he knew a lot about drugs, but not much about how to make candy. So he signed up for courses with a local candy maker and learned some candy tricks. Then back to his own laboratory, where he experimented with different drugs and formulations. Sulphur taffy was not a success. His next idea was soft, chocolate covered candies with fondant centers to incorporate the medicine. Alas, his cod-liver oil chocolate creams left a little to be desired. There were other problems with fondant based medicines: fondant was tricky to work with, and dried out if stored too long, making it impractical for druggists to keep on hand.
Finally he hit on the idea of pressed sugar tablets, something akin to today’s American “Smarties.” These were easy to fabricate with a simple hand press and created a base for incorporating some 50 different active drugs. Whether you were bothered by syphilis or malaria, cough or diarrhea, Fantus had a candy tablet to suit. Fantus claimed that his formulations would result in candy tablets that tasted so good that the only problem would be to keep children from overdosing by eating too much at once.
In the early 1900s, most all prescription drugs were compounded locally by the pharmacist himself. So Fantus didn’t think of actually making any of these candy medications to sell. Instead, Fantus published a booklet titled Candy Medication in 1915 in the hopes that his idea would be taken up by doctors and pharmacists elsewhere. In his preface, he explained the benefits that would come from taking up candy in medical practice:
It is the author’s hope that this booklet may be instrumental in robbing childhood of one of its terrors, namely, nasty medicine; that it may lessen the difficulties experienced by nurse and mother in giving medicament to the sick child; and help to make the doctor more popular with the little ones.
Whether other children beyond Fantus’s own practice benefited from his idea is hard to say. But it would be quite some time before a commercial version of “candy medication” became available: children’s chewable aspirin was introduced in 1952.