Posts tagged ‘penny candy’
Chocolate Tootsie Rolls are “a hit with all.” And just whom do we mean by “all”? Let’s see. We have the lady at leisure with a book in one hand and a Tootsie in the other. Or for the working woman, a Tootsie chew at the typewriter. Tootsie is for the sporting types as well, as we see Lady offering a morsel to a burly line backer. At home, Mama might offer a bite to her sweet one. Look, there’s Junior, snacking on a Tootsie on his way home from school. And even Officer Nightstick enjoys his Tootsie. Men and women, young and old, leisured and working, at play, school, home or office: everybody eats Tootsie Rolls.
Tootsie Rolls is up to something interesting in this ad. They are selling a piece of candy at the price of one cent: penny candy. But “penny candy” is cheap, in price and quality, and considered suitable only for children. And the penny candy market is the very bottom. If you want a big piece of the candy pie, you need to sell up.
Stern & Saalberg, the makers of the Chocolate Tootsie Roll, had a couple of ideas. First was the packaging. Whether Tootsie Rolls were the first penny candy to be wrapped in paper is impossible to say. Paper wrapping machines were common by 1908, the year Tootsie Rolls were first marketed, and other candies large and small were sold wrapped. But the wrapper on the Tootsie Roll is distinctive, the shape is distinctive, and the display of all those Rolls lined up in their case is quite eye catching. And while “penny candy” was usually brightly colored to catch the child’s eye, Tootsie Roll was wrapped in more “sophisticated” tones of gold and chocolate brown.
The power of syllogism also came in hand for making the Tootsie Roll stand out in the penny field. The copy on this ad reads: “Retailed at one cent each but no more to be classed with the ordinary run of Penny Goods than a Plate of Ice Cream with a Snowball.” Put on your SAT hats: Snowball is to Ice Cream as Penny Good is to Tootsie Roll. Tootsie Roll comes out way ahead in this game of logic.
It wasn’t long, though, before the obvious solution presented itself. In April 1910, a new ad appeared proclaiming “We HAD to pack them in 5 and 10c. packages–everybody asked us to–so here they are, the neatest style and biggest value ever put into a 5 or 10c package.” :
Of course, that didn’t mean that you were getting a special deal. As you can see in this re-design of the package in 1913, a 5 cent box gives you 5 one cent candies, and likewise for 10 cents. But you do get a nice box to go with it.
Sources: Stern & Saalberg ads for Tootsie Rolls from Confectioners Journal (1910); 1913 packaging illustrated in International Confectioner (1913)
How many candies can you name?
Once you get past the name-brand candy bars, things get pretty generic: gum drops, jelly beans, licorice sticks.
But “generic” never did too well at the box-office; if you want people to buy your candy, you’d better come up with a catchy name!
Do you like licorice? What kind? In 1908, the National Licorice Co. of Brooklyn NY suggested these sorts of flexible licorice penny goods:
Buffalo Sticks, Big Piece, Giant Bar, Fluted Bar, Brick, Electric Light Wires, Flexible Sticks, Whips, Cigarettes, Navy Plugs, Triple Tunnel Tubes, Mint Puff Straps, Golf Sticks, Blow Pipes, Triplets, Big Lorimers, Elastic Tubes, Indian Plugs, Pan Pipes, Flexo Chocolate Bars, Curved Stem Pipes, Large Cigars
Over at T.M. Duche & Sons, of New York, they added a few licorice specialties of their own:
Lion Sticks, Fluted Tubes, Subway Tunnels, Eagle Twists, Cigarettes, Monster Tubes, Licorice Gems, Puritana Sticks, Peerless Sticks, Crown Pretzels, Crown Cigars, Teddy Bear Cigars, Skidoo Bars, Happy Days, Jersey Tunnels.
Beyond the millions of possible shapes for licorice were the thousands more candy variations. We’ll never know what most of these tasted like, but I still marvel at the amazing names these candy makers gave to their creations.
The Blue Ribbon Candy Co of Baltimore MD would be pleased to send the candy jobber of 1908 this candy case called “Easy Money Assortment” which included:
Return Balls, Aspinwall Bananas, Devil Crabs, Cocoa Marshmallow Twist, Skidoos, and Small Fries.
From George Blome & Son of Baltimore, you could order penny goods like:
Crimp, Turkish Nougat Bars, Aniseed Hunks, Peanut Fondants, Belmonts, Penny Tarts, Penny Cushions, Satin Pillows, Campaign Buttons, I-Say-So, Chocolate Cushions, Beats All Peanut, Butter Balls, Butter Cakes, Toasted Cream Bars, Orange Dessert, Dinkey Dinks With Counter Pan, Navy Twists, Chocolate Taffy Twists, Chocolate Buttons, Taffy Cuts, Three Jacks, Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs, Wild Strawberries.
A.E. Cohen & Co. of New York City offered the discerning candy eater of 1908 such mystery goods as:
Kokokrisp, Neapolitan Bricks, Krispets, Sphinx Package, Keep Kool, Scorcher, Chocolate Krumble, Mayflower Corn Cake, Dolly Varden Cake, Currant Cake, Kokonut Cake
And last, my personal favorites, from Adams Argood Chocolate Company of Philadelphia:
Nougarmels, Molasnut, and Nutaline Argoodies
Penny candy has been on my mind lately. Penny candy is of course kid’s candy. I have a fantasy that back in the olden days, kids could just go buy whatever candy they wanted, whenever they wanted. Pennies aren’t so hard to come by, after all (look under the pillows of your couch).
But it turns out that not every one agreed that children should be free to spend their pennies as they chose. In 1909, a Brooklyn alderman came to the city council with a plan: to make it a crime to buy candy. That’s right: he wanted to make it illegal for any child under the age of 16 to purchase candy, unless they were with their parents or some responsible relative. And he meant business: the law would include fines from $10 to $50 (a week’s wages for many) and from 10 to sixty days imprisonment. Luckily for the kids of Brooklyn, the ordinance got shot down.
The full force of the law seems a pretty big stick to keep kids away from their candies.
And if some though it should be a crime for kids to buy candies for themselves, others were willing to go further. How about the citizen who wrote to the New York papers with this suggestion: make it illegal for any one over the age of 14 to offer or give candy to anyone under 14. The reason they gave? To cut down on kidnapping. Uh huh. Because the kidnappers are going to think twice if they realize that the candy lure they are using is against the law…
About those stick candies in the image: those are the original version of the kind of “old fashioned stick candies” you see today every once in a while. They were about 2 1/2 inches long, wrapped in wax paper with a paper label that stated the flavor. They sold for a penny a piece at the shop; this ad is selling to the retalier, a box of 450 sticks at $2.25. Some of the flavors in this box are pretty familiar: lemon, peppermint, spearmint. But there is also sassafrass, clove, and rose. Sassafrass is similar to root beer, and clove is a flavor you might find these days in spice drops or Necco wafers, but I don’t know any rose flavored candies!
Source: Confectioners Journal Feb 1909 p. 74: “A Weird Story from Brooklyn”; Confectioners Journal May 1914 p. 102 (no title).
This 1958 Du Pont ad declares: “Candy’s at its best in Cellophane!”
And it was no exaggeration. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Cellophane was the very best wrapping material for candy. Cellophane was transparent and impermeable. This made it the ideal wrapping material for Americans who were worried about germs but who were also very picky shoppers. Cellophane meant they could see what they were getting, but still be confident that “germs” were kept out.
From the very beginning, candy makers loved cellophane. Some industry observers dated the birth of the modern candy trade to 1923, the year Du Pont began manufacturing Cellophane in the U.S. Cellophane revolutionized the packaging of candies. Individually wrapped candies sparkled, like glowing gems, a huge leap from the old dull waxed papers. Cellophane could be make into transparent bags for bulk candies, the whole package a tantalizing window on the candy inside. For the high-end market, cellophane covered and sealed fancy boxed candies, guaranteeing hygienic freshness. The candy buying consumers certainly found these qualities appealing. But Cellophane also helped the candy seller. Candy wrapped in Cellophane would maintain its freshness and visual appeal for longer periods, so merchants worried less about old goods. And wrapped candies could be sold as a “self-service” item to be stocked on modern grocery store shelves, which would mean fewer expensive clerks to serve the customers.
“New, clean wrap is a sweet idea!”
Ads from the 1930s emphasized cleanliness and convenience. The individually wrapped candies in these ads will be happy in a pocket or handbag, with no worry for sticky messes. The girl peering over the candy bin seems ready to reach in for a handfull. There is no clerk standing over her waiting for her order. She can just help herself! Compare this image of the open candy bins to the image of a 1900s candy store in Ye Olde Candy Shoppe.
Many of these ads feature sweet little girls. But of course: little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” and what is nicer or sweeter than fresh candy!
In the 1950s ads, Du Pont emphasized the official line of the NCA, “Candy is Delicious Quick-Energy Food.” The advantage of Cellophane is to keep the candy fresh. In this and the ad at the top of the page, the candy is wrapped in Cellophane bag. Compare this to the 1930s ads, which suggest the little girls might be choosing individual pieces of candy. By the 1950s, the children’s candy market had moved away from little penny candies (see Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy).
1955: “You can be sure candy is fresh and clean–and you can see to choose the kind you like best–when you buy CANDY IN CELLOPHANE.”
Is the “you” who buys the candy the mother? She’s probably the one who cares that the candy is fresh and clean. Or is it the kids? They can choose the kind they like best. The jelly beans they are holding are pre-packaged in the Cellophane bag. It’s a pretty big sack, not likely to be purchased by a child alone. Candy here is something mother buys for her children, not something they go out to buy for themselves.
If you were a kid in the 1930s, you knew a lot about penny candy. It was what kids could afford, their biggest indulgence, their own consumer paradise. They were cheap, colorful, varied, and sold directly to children at the little candy stores. Familiar candies like marshmallows, licorice, hard candies, suckers, caramels and the like were sold at so many per penny. Like most candy before the rise of the “self-service” supermarket in the late 1940s, penny candies were dispensed from bins or boxes by the clerk, and they were usually not wrapped or branded. The rise of wrapping technologies and materials, especially after the first world war, as well as the new importance of advertising in the 1920s, began to shift some of the children’s market to wrapped goods and bars costing 5 or 10 cents. But penny candies continued to be the major kiddie attraction. Penny candies were a big part of childhood in those days:
They would keep a child wondering and looking for a long time before spending his small change. There used to be bright red cinnamon drops at a cent a tiny cup. And big yellow or green gum drops at two for a penny. And coconut strips the colors of the flag in waxed paper.
That’s Langston Hughes, believe it or not. He is best known as one of America’s most beloved poets and a major figure in African American literature. He also was an unrepentant candy lover. And a sad candy lover: by 1948, when he wrote the essay I’m quoting, penny candy had all but disappeared.
In the 1940s the children’s candy market began to experience dramatic changes. By 1946, the portion of the total candy output that was produced for the penny market had fallen to less than 4 percent. Both long term and short term forces conspired to make penny candy a nostalgic memory by mid-century. Penny candy had always represented the bottom end of the candy trade. “Better” candy stores avoided penny candy sales, viewing the children’s trade as an inconvenience and a distraction. Profit margins on penny goods were razor thin, and the penny candy merchant had to spend more on labor to serve the demanding but small-spending customers making numerous small purchases. The U.S. entry into World War II in 1942 brought the rationing of sugar and other candy ingredients. The candy industry succeeded in having candy designated an “essential food,” thereby assuring their continued access to sugar and other necessary commodities, but prices rose significantly. During the years of the war, about half the nation’s candy production went to provisioning the military, thereby creating reducing the amount of candy that could be sold domestically. The result of these forces was to drive out the penny candy trade. Bulk and box candies were far more profitable, and manufacturers, even those with nostalgic ties to the candy past, could no longer make economic sense of the penny lines.
No one was more eloquent in mourning than Hughes, who described the parched candy landscape that had replaced the jeweled palaces of his childhood:
Nowadays, most of the candies displayed in grocery shops (at least in the big towns) seem to be the standard brands of Hershey’s and O. Henry’s the same from coast to coast–monotonously unvarying–and costing a nickel or more. Not even a child can shop for a penny in this day and age. And they don’t have the fun of peeping and peering and puzzling and selecting such as one had when faced with a wonderful array of unwrapped penny candies in the old days.
Source: Langston Hughes, “Childhood Memories Of Good Old Home,” The Chicago Defender 18 December 1948.
What do you tell your children about the war? In my house, we try to avoid talk of violence, terrorism, torture, guns and bombs. My daughter is only six, and somehow I cling to the idea that I can shield her from the harsh realities for a little while longer.
So when I found ads for children’s candy from the era of World War I that emphasized war and weaponry, I was a bit surprised.
Zatek Milk Chocolate Eatmors were chocolate drops (similar to Hershey’s chocolate kisses) sold in a tube. Before WWI, ads for Eatmors suggested that kids could use the tube as a megaphone when they were finished with the candy. Then in 1916 they started a new campaign with a new toy idea:
Boom! the War is on. Children all over this peaceful land are having the time of their lives making toy cannons out of ZATEK Eatmor tubes and playing war. Each Eatmor cannon is loaded with 24 or more ’solid shot’ of pure, sweet, creamy milk chocolate.
The ads included diagrams showing how kids could turn the tubes into little play cannons by adding paper wheels, and a scene with brother and sister down on the playroom rug surrounded by toy soldiers and the Eatmor cannon.
The R.E. Rodda Company of Lancaster PA took the theme of national war preparedness for its 1916 line of penny candy novelties. Children could have 6 submarines, or 5 torpedo-boat destroyers, or 4 battleships for their penny purchase. Their ad copy featured a parody of the war-time news reels and tabloid headlines of the day:
Almost since the day the phrase, ’National Preparedness’ was born, we have been building (?) Battleships, Torpedo-Boat Destroyers and Submarines, until now we have a fleet second to none, and can supply each man, woman and child with a navy of their own. This is– National Preparedness.
Don’t wait for this ’bomb’ to drop in your territory–’arm yourself’ with a stock of these goods at once! Don’t ’defeat’ your opportunity for ’an overwhelming success’ this season, by running into doubt ’entanglements.’ Get busy! ’Mobilize’ your forces and begin ’the attack’ on the trade. ’Fire away’ with your orders–as stated before–we are Prepared!”
The U.S. joined the war officially in August 1917. But these advertisements from 1916 give a good idea of how deeply the feeling that war was coming had penetrated into the national spirit. We get a sense of jauntiness and confidence from the language of these ads: war is a good adventure, with little to fear. Candy cannons and submarines seem to transform war into a big game: its fun, if you know how to play.
For us today, the message “war is fun!” seems a little uncomfortable. Even more uncomfortable for me as a parent is the use of candy to encourage children to see the war as normal and fun. The “unconscious” work of these war candies and their advertising is to make every citizen, no matter how small, a participant in the war effort.
On the other hand, war is real. Are we doing more harm than good by sheltering our twenty-first century children from anything that would hint at the brutal truth?
Sources: Pennsylvania Chocolate Company ad for Zatek Eatmors, Confectioners Journal May 1916, p. 27; R.E. Rodda Candy Company ad, Confectioners Journal April 1916, p. 19.