Jazzy Names for Candy Bars

December 7, 2010 at 10:46 am 5 comments

The late 1920s and early 1930s were the Golden Era of the candy bar. Candy nostalgists talk a lot about those good old days. How many candy bars do you think were introduced between the world wars? A couple hundred? A thousand?

I don’t know the absolute answer. But ponder this: in 1927, a Milwaukee printer who was churning out wrappers for all those bars estimated that there were 15,000 new bars coming out every year. Fifteen thousand a year!

First off, obviously that did not mean there were 15,000 different new kinds of candy being invented every year. These bars were made by different companies, and they had different names, but there were popular formulas that were copied: nut bars, marshmallow bars, nougat bars, combine and repeat. Some were national products, but many more were local or regional with limited distribution, so the 15,000 new products each year would not all have arrived in the same place.

The variation and the multiplication of these candy bars was mostly happening on the surface: branding and packaging. A catchy name was just as important as a yummy bar. But when there are 15,000 new bars a year coming out, figuring out a new name for your bar gets a little tricky. A candy bar needs a name that is snappy and easy to remember. It needs to be original and distinctive, but  it also has to be easy to read and pronounce.

I always figured that the wacky candy bar names of the 1920s and 1930s were a reflection of the peculiar sense of humor in the old days. But there was a real problem: they just didn’t have enough traditional candy words to name all the new candy bars. So you get all those crazy names that are fun to dig up, like these that were sold around 1926-1928: Snirkles, Cold Turkey, Nut Pattikins, Wild Oats, Toasted Waffel, Sunny Jim, Old Nick, Old King Tut, Sphinx, Kid Boots. And some clever puns, like Damfino

Who really cares what a candy bar is called, right? The funny thing was, some people cared a lot.

Of course, big sucessful candy bar makers cared when little upstarts tried to steal their good will by copying their brands. Lots of trademark infringement litigation ensued.

But the other kind of name that got some people in a tizzy was the “jazzy” names.  Candy bars were coming out with names like: Red Hot Liza, Big Dick, The Jazz Hound, Fat Susie, Sloppy Sally, Fat Emma.  These slang names seemed to ooze out of dance halls and speak-easies. One proper citizen dismissed these as a vulgar  affront to her sensibilities:

“This style of name perhaps will meet popular favor amongst the flappers and the cake-eaters; on the other hand it sounds repulsive to a modest and refined customer.”

Repulsive or not, these names were risky: hot today, not so much tomorrow. Notice how you’ve never seen a “Fat Emma”? One of the top sellers of 1926, but it’s hard to imagine a candy bar with that name taking off in 2010.


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leslie Goddard  |  December 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I’m guessing that the Damfino was inspired by the Buster Keaton movie where he takes his family on a house boat named the Damfino. The climax revolves around the boat sinking but when they send out an SOS, the official asks, “who are you?” They reply “Damfino,” and he says “well if you don’t know, how should I?” Of course comic complications ensue.

    But what I really wonder is, would the Big Dick be a miserable flop or a huge success today.

    Thanks for this great trivia.

    • 2. Candy Professor  |  December 7, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      Great connection, and great story! I wonder about the timing? The Damfino bar I reference is around 1926. Funny, I assumed it was “damn fine-o” which makes sense for candy but your story suggests the other pronunciation. The Damfino bar, by the way, was chocolate cream and filbert nuts.

  • 3. Paul  |  March 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I was wondering what happened to a candy bar from the 1960 to early 70’s by the name of caravelle (?) it had caramel and puffed rice. Ever heard of it?

    • 4. Candy Professor  |  March 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Sounds familiar, and also triggers a song memory, a jingle something like “Nobody can say no to a Peter Paul Caravelle.” Or did I just make that up in my head?

  • 5. HollyDolly  |  August 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Know t6his is a little late,but i purchased on ebay a 1920s Butler Brothers catalog. They supplied merchants with clothes,furniture,radios, cookware,glasses,dishware,etc. Most things to equip your store with.They also had some retail stores of their own. They have a section with candy in it.
    For the candy bars,like Fat Emma,Pie Face,Lucky Lindy’s Lunch,
    Fig Sundae,Love Kiss ,etc.they say what’s in it. Love Kiss was a nougat bar, like the Italian nougat you can find at places like TJMAXX,etc.The Fig Sundae had a fig filling like fig newtons,and it was surounded by marshmellow I think and covered in choclate.They also have in it Baby Ruth and Oh Henry and Bit o Honey which are still made today.
    Sold wholesaler catalogs like Butler Brothers or old grocer catalogs will have descriptions of the items in them.


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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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