Posts filed under ‘1890 to WW I’
Glassine is a kind of paper. It is thin, translucent, moisture and grease resistant. It is in wide use today, you’ve seen glassine envelopes for stamp collecting, or maybe bought a sack of hot roasted peanuts in a glassine bag.
In the ‘teens, the packaging of candy changed dramatically. Old-time candy was packaged in bulk, and measured out at the point of sale. You can see the problems with this system, though: it was slow, you needed a clerk to serve each customer, it might be unhygienic, and it didn’t encourage any kind of brand loyalty.
Glassine was one of the new materials that made it possible for candy makers to package their goods individually. They could put their name on the package, thus enhancing brand identity. And glassine allowed for a cloudy glimpse of the tasty candy inside.
Here are some examples of early glassine packaging. I especially like these images because they show examples of the earliest candy bars produced by small and long-gone candy makers.
As the “Glassine Bags” ad shows, glassine was also useful for packaging things like peanuts, popcorn, and small candies because it could be glued into the shape of a bag or envelope.
Of course, today the flexible and transparent poly bags have taken the place of glassine. But in our time of “green” packaging, maybe we’ll see a glassine comeback!
Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal, 1919 and 1920.
When I say lollipop, what comes to mind? Dum Dum? Tootsie Pop?
Well, if it were 1920, you’d probably think first of the Scout Sucker.
Back in the early 1900s, there were suckers, sure. And every candy shop, no matter what other sorts of candy they sold, was sure to sell lots of suckers. But there was nothing distinctive about them. They were all more or less alike, no package or wrapper or brand to distinguish one from another. And a kid would just say “give me a sucker” and get whatever kind the shop happened to sell.
Scout Sucker was the first one to come in a special box with a special wrapper, and an ambitious advertising campaign to back it up. So instead of asking for suckers, kids started asking for Scout Suckers.
The man behind Scout Suckers was named H.W. Faulkner. In 1912, he was a scrappy 15 year old scrubbing out tubs in an ice cream parlor. But he had big dreams, and the way to riches was paved with candy. He got a bit of capital together, and by 1917 had his own little manufacture going in a basement. Faulkner knew from the start that it was all about branding and advertising. Of his first $900 investment, he put 20 percent into advertising. His business strategy was a success. Faulkner Candy grew and grew; by 1920 Faulkner had moved to a huge new factory in Mount Vernon, Illinois and was churning out millions of Scout Suckers. Faulkner was all of 23 years old.
The factory was a model of modern manufacturing efficiencies. As you can see in the picture, it was built next to the rail road line and boasted its own side track. This meant that supplies could be shipped directly by rail car; corn syrup arrived in tanks and was piped into the basement, saving on the costs of unloading barrels. The corn syrup and other ingredients would be pumped to the top floor, where manufacture began, the goods being drawn ever downward by gravity until they would arrive in their final boxes at the bottom floor, flying out the chute and into customers’ waiting mouths.
By the way, Americans didn’t used to call them “lollipops.” That’s an old word with a more general meaning, usually given as “sweetmeat.” The word was frequently used to denote something trifling and enjoyable; “Mrs. Lollipop” and “King Lollipop” were frequent characters in children’s stories of the nineteenth century, and “Lollipop” was also the name of an early 1900s literary magazine. In the early 1900s, Americans typically called candy on a stick an “all-day sucker” which soon was shortened to “sucker” simple. Notwithstanding the adorable Shirley Temple warbling about the “Good Ship Lollipop” in 1934, here in the U.S. the word “lollipop” to mean exclusively candy on a stick does not seem to have been universally accepted until the 1940s. But then, “On the Good Ship Sucker” wouldn’t have been quite so catchy.
P. W. Hanna, “Men and Methods: H.W. Faulkner” System, the Magazine for Business, March 1922 286-87, 310. Scout Sucker and factory images from Faulkner advertising in Confectioners Journal, February 1920.
Who was the first to put a blob of candy on a stick and call it a “sucker”?
It seems like a pretty obvious idea now, but back in the 1800s candy makers didn’t just have sticks lying around. They made “candy sticks,” and you could suck on that.
In Canada the innovation is credited to Gilbert and James Ganong who ran a grocery in St. Stephen. The story goes that they had some of the sticks butchers use to fasten meat, and they hit on the idea of pressing the stick into a warm piece of candy. This was in 1895, and the candy on a stick was a big hit, spreading across Canada in a few short years.
On this side of the border, we don’t have any particular contender for the honorary title of “inventor,” but we do know that by 1900 the phrase “all-day sucker,” meaning hard candy on a stick, had passed into common idiomatic use.
And not everyone approved. A Pennsylvania teacher writing in 1900 laments the lassitude and distractibility of the child whose attention is overly focused on candy:
I ask the pupils…above all things to avoid that demoralizing ‘all-day sucker.’ I have never yet had a child who was persistently devoted to this candy who was of any account. One can buy four all-day suckers for a penny, and there is something so exasperatingly self-satisfied in the child who starts to school in the morning with three of these pieces in his hand and one in his mouth!
Four all-day suckers to a penny! Another writer remembers the price at two to the penny, and recollects his fondness for the sweets:
In my youthful days they used to have what they called an all-day sucker, selling at two for a cent, from which any reasonable human being of ordinary suction-power could extract a steady stream of unalloyed bliss for twenty-four hours, or, if he worked on the thing for one eight-hour shift per day, for three solid days. My idea of Heaven used to be a Harp, a Halo, and an all-day sucker ever ready for my need. (1916)
That price was bound to rise; by 1920, when sucker manufacture really took off, the typical sucker would cost a penny a piece.
And what about the sticks? Today we’re used to paper or plastic to hold our candy upright, but back in the 1900s it would have been wood. Who was cutting up all those little sticks for suckers? It must have been tedious work. Finally around 1925, someone came up with a machine to cut up boards into little sucker sticks, at the rate of 50,000 sticks per hour.
And one last thought on those sticks. Maybe you remember the famous line from the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) when Sugar Kane Kowalczyk says “Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.” Here’s the same sentiment, circa 1896:
A GRIEF AND A REFLECTION.
She was sitting on the curbstone,
And she wept and sobbed aloud,
While her little friends stood near her
In a sympathetic crowd.
“What’s the matter, dear?” I asked her;
“Are you hurt or are you sick?”
“No; I’ve sucked my all-day sucker,
Till there’s nothing left but stick!”
Well, a penny cured her trouble
With another “sucker” quick;
But why is it that life’s taffy
Nearly always ends in “stick?”
Sources: Candymaking in Canada: the history and business of Canada’s confectionery industry By David Carr (Dundurn Press Ltd., 2003); “Snappy Recitation: How to Make a Recitiation Snappy and the movement Brisk” Pennsylvania school journal, Vol 48 no 12 (June 1900): 547-550 ; John Kendrick Bangs, “The Genial Philosopher,” The Independent, Nov. 27, 1916, p. 372 ; “Making of ‘All-Day Sucker’ Sticks is a New Industry,” Popular Mechanics Nov 1925 p. 744 ; Bessie Chandler, “A Grief and a Reflection,” The Times and Register. (Philadelphia and Boston) Vol. 32. Oct 24, 1896 p. 360
If you are a fan of Hershey’s and a history buff, you might know the excellent book by James McMahon called Built on Chocolate: The Story of the Hershey Chocolate Company. This is a lavishly illustrated authorized company history. McMahon is the curator of the Hershey Museum, and he had access to the company archives to reproduce examples of goods and ephemera from every era of Hershey.
But here’s one he didn’t include:
This is a 1906 ad for milk chocolate wafers in a novelty package. The bag looks like a mail bag. But there’s more:
The mail car creates an intriguing display for the individual mail pouches. This is in a period when the idea of retail display is really in its infancy. Hershey had very fancy wrappers for his goods, suggeting that part of his success was in grasping early on the importance of presentation.
Milton Hershey had perfected his milk chocolate formula only a few years before, and began selling the first milk chocolate bars made in America in 1900. Milk chocolate “kisses” would be introduced in 1907. So this 1906 milk chocolate wafer is something in between, an intermediate step between the full-size bars and the foil wrapped kisses. It’s hard to say just how big this mail sack is, but since a milk chocolate bar for eating was sold at 5 cents in 1906, this 10 cent portion must have been substantially more.
This ad appeared in Confectioners Journal in October 1906.
For more on the history of Hershey’s Kisses, see my related posts:
When the Imperial Candy Company/Redel Candy Corp. of Milwaukee launched their new marshmallow line in 1917, they were clearly thinking about just one thing: Campfires. Marshmallow and campfires were the peanut butter and jelly of the ‘teens, and so they named their new confection “Campfire Marshmallows.”
The earliest packaging encouraged marshmallow munchers to roast the goodies around the flaming logs, or at least to imagine a forest surround. Here is a 1918 ad that sets the sylvan tone:
Although the campfire image suggests a rough masculinity, marshmallows were frequently marketed in ways that connected their appearance and texture with qualities of women and children. For example, a competing brand put out by the manufacturer of Cracker Jack was called “Angelus” and featured a cherubic little girl as the trademark. Along similar lines, in this 1919 ad Campfire brand makes a saucy connection between the puffy white mounds of marshmallow and the little cheeks of these cute rascals:
We can see in these ads that something dramatic has changed between 1918 and 1919. The 1918 box is really emphasizing the campfire theme. It even has the slogan “you can toast them if you like.” In contrast, the 1919 package was simplified and streamlined. And that wasn’t the only change afoot at Campfire headquarters.
In 1919, Campfire broke ranks with the leading marshmallow manufacturers. It launched an audacious new marketing campaign with one aim: to stock every pantry in America with marshmallows. American cooks had been experimenting with marshmallows for more than a decade, to be sure. (On scientific cookery at the turn of the century and the culinary rise of the marshmallow, see my post on Candy Salad). But Campfire wanted more: to redefine marshmallow altogether, to push marshmallow out of the candy store and into the baking aisle.
Campfire acted on multiple fronts to push marshmallow forever more onto grocery shelves. They changed the shape of the marshmallow to round, the better to cook with. Before that, marshmallows sold as candy were square. And they put the marshmallows in six ounce boxes, rather than the traditional candy-serving of two and 3/4 ounce. They launched a new advertising campaign which promoted marshmallow desserts: jellies and cakes and parfaits. And they put out a cook book featuring both familiar and entirely new recipes “showing the many uses of Campfire in preparing dainty desserts, cakes, puddings, etc.” The booklet was described in ads such as the one above, and included in the marshmallow package.
This 1920 ad features an even more elaborate dessert display, and the explicit suggestion that Campfire marshmallows deserve a permanent place in the kitchen pantry:
There was much to be gained in this push into the kitchen. As an admiring article in Printers Ink explained:
It is easy to see why Campfire keeps entirely away from the confectionery idea and bases its whole appeal on cooking and baking. … Regarded as candy, marshmallows would be purchased only semi-occasionally. Looked upon as a cookery staple most valuable in the preparation of new and dainty dishes it can have a steady demand.
But Campfire did not entirely abandon its marshmallow roasting history. Ads in Boys Life Magazine in 1920 and 1921 reminded Scouts of their summer camp marshmallow pleasures. In an early example of “kid-fluence” marketing, Campfire counseled:
Tell mother about these tempting Marshmallows today. Tell her there’s a recipe folder in every package. But be sure to tell her to get Campfire–the kind of Marshmallows you had at camp. (see the ad here)
Campfire Brand marshmallows today are manufactured by Doumak, Inc. It was Alexander Doumak who invented the modern extrusion process in 1948. Since 1900, marshmallows had been made using the starch mogul system, which involves dropping marshmallow goo into starch molds and letting it set. Doumak came up with the revolutionary idea of squeezing the marshmallow mixture out into a long tube and cutting it into pieces. It was faster and easier than the starch moguls. And that is the marshmallow we have today: tubes of white puffs in a sack, and sold as grocery.
Sources: All advertising images appeared in Confectioners Journal in the years indicated. “Changing a Confectionery into a Staple Article of Cooking,” Printers Ink, Jan 27, 1921 p. 97-100. For a detailed explanation of the modern marshmallow manufacturing process, see How Marshmallows are Made.
The rage for all things marshmallow that newspapers noted in the early 1900s also inspired creative cooks to propose new ways of incorporating marshmallow into desserts. While candy promoters sometimes struggled to have their products accepted as “good food,” in the case of marshmallow the passage between candy and pantry staple seemed exceptionally smooth.
The years of marshmallow’s transition from specialty confection to national candy craze were also the years of stunning innovation in American cooking. The movement known as “domestic science” advocated a rational approach to cooking that emphasized consistency, nutritive value, uniformity, and blandness and rejected the traditional, the intuitive, and the flavorful. Untamed, messy, irregular foods were not modern or hygienic. The task of the scientific cook was to regulate, control, and master her ingredients.
At the pinnacle of turn of the century scientific cooking stood white sauce. There was no dish that could not be improved by the addition of a coating of white sauce, a bland mixture of milk, butter and flour. And while marshmallow was perhaps slightly less versatile, to a generation of scientific cooks trained at the knee of white sauce, its white, bland appeal must have been irresistible. Just as white sauce improved every meat and vegetable, so would marshmallow improve every cake, pudding and ice cream.
At first, the marshmallow incursion was limited to the most simple and straightforward sorts of additions. Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook book included a recipe for “marshmallow cake” in 1896, yellow cake with a marshmallow crème in between the layers. Recipes for marshmallow cakes and marshmallow frostings were published several times in the Boston Daily Globe’s “Housekeeper” column in the early 1900s, suggesting that home made cakes featuring marshmallows were a popular dessert item.
The cake recipes added sweet to sweet: marshmallow’s pure sugar hit would intensify the dessert sensation offered by tender cakes and succulent sugar frostings.
But marshmallow would not be stopped. By the ‘teens, the layering of sweet on sweet led to dessert innovations like gingerbread with melted marshmallow, ice cream re-frozen with melted marshmallow then topped with marshmallow, and cakes with names like “Ecstasy” or “Heavenly Pudding” which combined “marshmallows, candied fruit, macaroons, white cake, gelatin, and whipped cream in one fashion or another.”
These and other marshmallow creations are described by Laura Shapiro in Perfection Salad, an indispensable history of the emergence of “scientific cookery” at the turn of the century. Shapiro’s book explains the trends and attitudes that would pave the way for a new phenomenon that flourished at mid-century: Candy Cookery. The marshmallow was just the beginning.
As a distinctively American style of cooking and presentation took hold of American stomachs and American kitchens in the early 1900s, sweet flavors were less and less confined to the final course. The versatile marshmallow presented the inventive cook with sweetness, volume, and texture, but no particular flavor or color to intrude on other ingredients.
Nothing was immune from marshmallow improvement. The line between dessert and salad quickly blurred. Shapiro describes Fanny Farmer’s famous Los Angeles Fruit Salad: canned pineapple, grapes, walnuts, and marshmallows, “an innovation in sweetening that was remarkable even by [Farmer’s] own standards” (Shapiro 194). And many marshmallow concoctions defied categorization entirely. Shapiro describes a Boston Cooking School Magazine recipe for cream cheese and marshmallow sandwiches to be served for tea, as well as the mania for toasted marshmallows stuffed with raisins as a luncheon buffet specialty. Such culinary innovations seemed to fall entirely outside traditional categories of salad, dessert, or even candy.
Marshmallows were destined for great things in the kitchen. By 1913, the grocery magazine Table Talk was pushing marshmallows as a regular pantry staple. In an article titled “Marshmallow Mixtures” Eva Alice Miller scolds the cooks of America for their narrow marshmallow prejudice:
Many housekeepers consider marshmallows simply a confection, and make no use of them in their cooking. They are very useful, however, in many ways, and make a pleasing variety in the bill of fare.
Alongside the pudding and pie recipes, Miller included instructions for Marshmallow Omlette, Marshmallow Toast, Marshmallow Salad, all of which would seem at home on a breakfast or lunch plate.
Marshmallow cooking was no joke. Witness this antique marshmallow tin for Gordon’s Household Marshmallows (offered for sale by Rion’s Relics). It is big enough to hold ten pounds of the puffy stuff. Eat up, America!
For more on turn of the century ideas about American cookery, see Laura Shapiro, Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986; University of California, 2009).
Candy Professor Marshmallow Madness continues today. Missed Part I? Click here for “In Search of Lost Marshmallow,” in which all mysteries of the origins and nature of marshmallow are revealed.
Marshmallows exploded onto the American candy scene in the early 1900s. New machines and recipes made it possible for marshmallow to be sold on a mass scale for the first time. And marshmallow everywhere inspired a new entertaining sensation for the high-society set: the marshmallow roast.
The city newspapers in Boston and Philadelphia and New York of the 1900s and 1910s are full of stories of fashionable marshmallow roasting parties. One such party in August 1908 brought a group of young revelers to the beach in Sea Girt, NJ:
A marshmallow party took a lot of young people from the Parker House down on the beach Wednesday evening, and there, making a fire, they gathered around the pile of burning driftwood and spun yarns, roasting just enough marshmallows to give an excuse for the gathering. “Sea Girt Plays Croquet,” NYT 8/1/1908
Marshmallow roasts weren’t restricted to the sea-side, to be sure. At mountain and lake side resorts in the summer months, the scene of roasting marshmallows around the campfire was always a highlight of the holiday. Summer society pages described the marshmallow roasting revels at popular destinations including Schroon Lake, Groton, Lake Placid, Belmar, and Pinehursh. A New York Times description of a 1911 party in Allenhurst, New Jersey gives a sense of the flavor of these evenings:
A marshmallow roast was given on Wednesday night by a number of young women and men from the cottage colony. They built a bonfire in front of the Casino and there toasted the sweets. When all the candy had been eaten they strolled along the beach in the moonlight.
It wasn’t just the society types who were roasting marshmallows in those days. Any place there was a camp fire, it seems, there were marshmallows. Camping was a popular American leisure activity for the middle classes, even in the 19th century. Teddy Roosevelt had gained fame as the leader of the “Rough Riders” in the Spanish American War in 1898; Roosevelt’s image of rugged fortitude and fresh-air adventure inspired the nation. Marshmallow roasting parties gave pampered city dwellers the chance to light the beach bonfire or the mountain campfire and go rustic. Kids were roughing it too: the idea of “scouting” for children was gaining popularity; the Boy Scouts of America would be founded in 1910.
The Scouts quickly developed a reputation for being inveterate marshmallow eaters. A Boys Life magazine editor, seeking to distinguish the useful magazine article from the obvious, zeroed in on the matter of marshmallow eating:
Eating marshmallows is an exercise that every scout knows perfectly well how to perform, and reading a hundred paragraphs about scouts who burned their tongues and smeared their faces with marshmallow powder would not increase their capacity for marshmallows. But, if the Podunk Scouts [who hope to have their article published] discovered some new, novel and brilliant stunt for acquiring those marshmallows, or developed some method by which they could be placed in the mouth blazing without taking the skin off their tongues, or invented some automatic guage that would stop a scout just before he absorbed enough marshmallows to make serious trouble in the department of the interior, that would be big news. (Boys Life July 1924 “Pow-Wow Department” p. 43)
Who roasted the first marshmallow, we don’t know. But I think it was a kid. You have this marshmallow, and you wonder, what would happen if I held a match to it? Only a kid would think of that. As the stories from the highs of the society pages to the middle brow pages of Boys Life attest, roasted marshmallows their eating and their roasting) are one treat with universal appeal. Is there anything better than the perfectly roasted marshmallow?
So this summer, as you douse your wood with lighter fluid and sharpen up your roasting sticks, imagine yourself back one hundred years ago. Lots of things have changed. But we still have roasted marshmallows!