Kids, Candy, and the Law
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).