Lance Cough Drops, from the makers of Tootsie Roll (1918)

July 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm 1 comment

As in life, in candy. There are winners, and there are losers.

Tootsie Roll was a winner; the  Stern & Saalberg Company made millions on those little chewy chocolatish nubs. But 1918, it was time for a new image. And a new product. But this one didn’t catch on in quite the same way.

For reasons I have yet to fathom, cough drops were incredibly popular in the early 1900s. Everybody seemed to be suffering from some ailment, and I suspect that all those ailments provided a handy excuse for sucking on sweet candies. Stern & Saalberg came up with their own entry into the cough drop arena: Lance Cough Drops. “Cut the Cough,” get it?

And since the field was so crowded, they poured money into marketing. These images come from an unprecedented four page color ad spread in the trade magazine Confectioners Journal. Stern & Saalberg also planned national print ads, cards for trolleys and trains, and huge window cards and displays for retailers.

With the first World War still in the air, perhaps the old world associations of the names Stern and Saalberg didn’t fit so well with the ambitions of the company. And by this time, neither Saalberg nor Stern was playing an active role in the company. So the company chose a new name, more bland to be sure, but also more definitely candy-like: The Sweets Company of America.

The name change is announced at the same time as the new cough drops, a sort of marketing double-whammy:

And what I really love is the Camelot theme, an imaginative exposition of the basic knight with lance that stands as the logo of the new candy. The artist conceived not just a few royals, but an entire court:

There is something so excessive and extravagant about all this noise around a simple cough drop. And it seems to be missing the candy trend of the day rather dramatically: what will get everybody excited in the next couple of years is not dowdy cough drops, but the new and surprising combinations of sweet and salty, chewy and smooth, chocolate and fruit and nut that will be the glorious candy bars of the 1920.

A detail: Stern & Saalberg reorganized and changed the name of the company in 1917; this ad and announcement appeared in Confectioners Journal in January 1918.

For more on the early history of Tootsie Roll and Stern & Saalberg, see my related post Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story.

Entry filed under: Candies We Miss, Marketing, WWI to WWII. Tags: , , , , .

1906 Novelty: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Wafer Mail Pouch News Brief: Moms say NO to Candy Camp

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. RobtN  |  October 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I suspect one reason cough drops were incredibly popular was a combination of rising urbanism in coal-fired cities with no pollution control – making respiratory ailments much more common. I lived in Beijing from late 2000 through mid-2003, and had a lot more respiratory problems, due entirely to massively high pollution.


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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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