Early Toy Novelties: Kandyskope

March 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm 4 comments

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.

Entry filed under: 1890 to WW I, Candies We Miss, Packaging.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard @ The Bewildered Brit  |  March 22, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Fascinating post as ever! So in adding a “gift” in each packet, Cracker Jack were just formalising a trend that had been going on for a long while at candy stores?

    • 2. CandyProfessor  |  March 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      How funny, your question makes me realize, I’ve seen so many pre-WWI Cracker Jack ads and just didn’t register whether they had the prize included or not, it just wasn’t on my radar. So I didn’t know right away when Cracker Jack started including those little toys. But the helpful folks at Old Time Candy give a history of Cracker Jack: Introduced in 1896, “prize in every box” starting in 1912. So that would be confirmation of your hunch, Richard. The penny candy “prizes” go back to the 1890s. Cracker Jack didn’t start with a prize along with the popcorn, but I think you are right to surmise that when they did start in 1912 it must have been inspired by what was then a common penny-candy practice.

  • 3. Mark D.  |  March 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    It would have been a better idea if they gave away the device and resold candy packets for them. Not that I’m a marketing genius but that’s how my razor company works. heh

    I look forward to your history articles, I love reading about candy we no longer get any more. I sometimes hate the mass produced candy bars we see now, with slight variations to maximize profit. 😦

  • […] A while back, I wrote about one 10 cent novelty that aimed at the adult market, the 1913 Kandyscope (link here). The manufacturer promised double fun: gaze at the shifting kaleidescope of candy, then eat the […]


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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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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.

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