Posts filed under ‘WWI to WWII’

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

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.

July 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm 1 comment

Feast on FEASTO

The 1920s and 1930s were the golden era of the candy bar. War-time sugar shortages had inspired candy makers to stuff all kinds of “fillers” into candy form to keep prices lower and supplies up; the resulting innovations were the earliest forms of our modern candy bars of nuts, nougats, grains, caramel, coconut and the like. (See my post on Candy Bar Fillers.)

The earliest of the bars that began to appear in 1919 and 1920 were fantastic confections, to be sure. But candy makers seemed to be putting all their creativity into the candy. Modern marketing gimmicks were just a glimmer on the horizon.

Many of the bars of 1920 were marketed with names that were descriptive, but uninspiring. Planters Nut Co. (yes, the same) brought out the Chocolate Nut  Bar and the Chocolate Peanut Mound, which as you can see were just what they said they were.  D. Auerbach and Sons of New York offered an array of bars including Auerbach Chocolate Marshmallow, Auerbach Chocolate Pineapple Fruit, Auerbach Chocolate Cocoanut Cream. The Ideal Chocolate Company offered its Ideal Sweet Milk Chocolate with Toasted Almond Bar. Honest names, to be sure. You would certainly know what to expect from one of these.

Others had more fanciful names that still suggested what sort of candy you might find in your mouth.  The Cluster Cake, the Jelly Bun, Cocotene, Peanut Goodies, Tropical Nut and Fruit Cake, and Mapeline Walnut Cream bar were available from the C.S. Ball Candy Co. of Dayton, Ohio.

But a few candy bars were beginning to move in a more fanciful direction. Names like Mason’s Peaks, a chocolate coated coconut bar, didn’t so much describe a candy were named in a way that didn’t so much describe the candy as describe an experience. Such candy would rely much more heavily on advertising to make the connection between the idea and the confection.

When I’m mining the candy archive, I often hit on these long-gone candies that exist only in their advertising. And in many cases, all that we can know is the name. What was a Sambo bar like? or a Ouija bar? Both of these were on offer from the Euclid Candy Co. of Dayton, Ohio, but the ads focus on the names and not what is inside the wrapper.

What strikes me when I look at these earliest efforts to attach  names and ideas to candy bars is the wide range of possibilities that are evoked by the names. Candy can be anything! And you can be anything when you’re eating candy.

My favorite from this period is the Feasto Bar, “a luscious combination of chocolate, peanuts, marshmallow, and caramel”: Introduced in May 1920, Feasto is the first bar that I found that refers to the act of eating the bar in its own name. And the rotund figure at the bottom suggests, perhaps, the amplitude of satisfaction one will experience after a feast of Feasto.

Source: Advertising appeared in Confectioners Journal 1920, various issues.

Related Posts:

July 5, 2010 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

Candy Taxes and Champion Shoppers

In 1921, Congress held hearings to deliberate the removal of a 5 percent “excise tax” levied on candy manufacturers in the wake of increased national war expenses. The National Confectioners Association, representing some 75 percent of the nations’ candy manufacturers, sent Hubert Fuller as their representative to argue against the special tax  and explain why candy, among all the goods which had fallen under the new taxes, should be exempted. Fuller was an attorney, not a candy maker, and his testimony shows skill in the legal arts of dodge and spin. But his pleadings also provide an intriguing glimpse into the state of candy during the first World War and just after.

When the Congressmen thought of candy, it seemed they were thinking of the kinds of candy they were likely to buy for the missus: a nice box of hand-dipped chocolates, selected from a fancy department store candy counter and selling for a dollar or more per pound. These luxury goods seemed fair game for raising extra revenue.

But Mr. Fuller meant to portray the candy business as primarily a business of cheap goods and slim profits. He pointed out that more than 80 percent of the candies produced in the country were “penny” candies and 5 or 10 cent items. You would find these cheaper candy goods in neighborhood shops, in general stores, in “5 and 10 cent” shops. But these stores would not only be selling candy. They had many offerings to entice the pennies and nickels and dimes. And so was it fair, Mr. Fuller demanded, that candy should be taxed, while the rest of the penny universe was not?

Mr. Fuller described the many dazzling alternatives to candy that you might also find at the candy shop. There were other delicacies like cookies, fancy crackers, raisins, stuffed dates, salted nuts. There were toys like marbles, tops, balloons, “squawkers,” paints and crayons [if you know what a squawker is, please tell!]. If none of these were to be taxed, then surely the discriminating customer would gravitate toward the better values for his or her precious pennies and nickles.

The tax on candy manufacture also seemed to unfairly single out confectioners, even when bakers were making sweets that seemed awfully close to candy. The chocolate coated marshmallow on a cheap cookie that was made in a bakery, for example, would not be taxed as candy (something like today’s Mallomars). A Denver candy manufacturer sent a letter to Congress describing a local bakery selling these at 5 cents, in direct competition with the 5 cent candy bars that he was manufacturing. But where the candy maker would give over 5 percent as tax, the baker would pocket that same 5 percent as profit. The Denver candy man imagined a grim future: “they can easily put the candy factories out of business so far as the 5 and 10 cent bars are concerned.”

Today many states are expanding their sales tax to include candy, but exclude “food.” If it has flour, it’s still considered food, even if it looks and tastes like candy. When we look back at this tax testimony from 1921, we can see that even then it was a widely accepted idea that “baked goods” were different from candy in some essential way, and therefore not taxed for extra revenue.  But we can also see that the line between “candy” and “baked good” could be quite tenuous.

My favorite moment in the testimony comes when Mr. Fuller explains why children in particular will not stand for the increase in the cost of candy that will come about as a result of the excise tax:

I wish, gentlemen, we could take a child into a store in your presence and give that child a nickel and you could see the child consume half an hour or an hour of the time of the proprietor of that store shopping. Gentlemen, the child is the champion shopper of the country, and he will determine then whether he is getting a penny’s worth or a nickel’s worth or a dime’s worth of candy, or whether he is going to go out and buy something that is not paying any of these taxes, such as the tops or the squawkers or the marbles or these other things.

The child is the champion shopper of the country! Now that is something.

Here at Candy Professor, we are finding that candy explains everything. So now let’s explain the sorry state of American household finances today from the candy perspective.

Since the 1980s, children have been deprived of the chance to wander into a store with a fist full of their own money and figure out if the nickel candy really is a nickel’s worth of candy. So when they grow up, they don’t know a nickel’s worth.

If you’ve never properly shopped for candy, how can you possibly be expected to shop for an exotic adjustable balloon sub-prime mortgage?

Source: Hearings on Internal-Revenue Revision before the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, July 26-29 1921. Candy and Confectionery, testimony of Hubert B. Fuller, representing the National Confectioners’ Association

June 4, 2010 at 8:16 am Leave a comment

Sugar and Snow: Jeri Quinzio and Eskimo Pies

I’m looking forward to a Candy Professor night on the town: Jeri Quinzio, the author of the award-winning book Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making, is lecturing and hosting an ice cream tasting here in New York City.

Ice cream and candy have been happy fellow travelers throughout history. Although candy making and ice cream making required different sorts of skills and equipment, they tended to operate in close proximity. The venerable Confectioners Journal, which began publishing in 1874, included ice cream making and fountain recipes until the 1940s. The Chicago area trade journal published in the first decades of the twentieth century was called Candy and Ice Cream. These days the only candy you’ll find at Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery is mixed into the ice cream. But when I was a kid, the ice cream parlor and the candy shop were usually one and the same.

Until fairly recently, the term “confection” referred both to frozen sweets like ice cream and non-frozen sweets like candy. Check out the wrapper on your Popsicle next time you flag down the ice cream truck. It says on the side that it is a “quiescently frozen confection.” That means it doesn’t get shaken around as they freeze it, and that it is in the same culinary category as candy and Cracker Jacks.

My research focuses on candy, so I was pretty happy to pick up a copy of Quinzio’s Of Sugar and Snow, which fills in the ice cream side. Her book is filled with all sorts of delightful ice cream stories. My favorite is one about the collision of candy and ice cream, perhaps for the first time: the story of the Eskimo Pie.

According to the story, Eskimo Pies were the brain child of a fellow in Iowa,  Christian K. Nelson, who taught high school and ran an ice cream parlor on the side. One day a kid came into the store with a nickel and a dilemma. He wanted ice cream. He wanted a chocolate bar. But he only had enough money for one or the other, and he just couldn’t make up his mind. I’m sure we all can sympathize.

In any event, we don’t know what Nelson did on that particular day in 1919. Maybe he chipped in another nickel of his own. Maybe he broke the chocolate bar in half. Maybe he sent the kid packing. But he went home that night with an idea.

Nelson experimented over the next few months with different combinations of ice cream and chocolate until he hit on the right formula for a chocolate-coated bar of ice cream. He called it the “Temptation I-Scream Bar.”  The Bar was a reasonable success. But things really took off after Nelson met Russell Stover, who was working at that time with an Omaha ice cream company. They decided to go into business together. They changed the name to “Eskimo Pie,” and started selling the bar for 10 cents. The bar was a big hit (although I note that the kid with the nickel was still out of luck). Nelson and Stover were so successful that they started licensing the rights to local ice cream manufacturers. Quinzio tells us that “by the spring of 1922 they had twenty-seven hundred licensees and were selling a million Eskimo Pies a day.” That’s a lot of ice cream!

I had noticed advertising in the 1922 trade journals for chocolate coatings to make “Eskimo Pies,” and Quinzio’s story of their manufacture explains why. Nelson patented his chocolate coated ice cream bars, and the manufacturing license was for the process and the brand name “Eskimo Pie.” That meant that ice cream companies who wanted to make Eskimo Pies would buy their own ingredients and chocolate coatings.

H.O. Wilbur and Sons was one of the contenders for the Eskimo Pie supply market. Their ad gives you an idea of what an ice cream bar looked like in 1922. Also it’s interesting to notice the igloos, polar bears and “eskimos.” Famous expiditions to the Arctic regions in the early 1900s had made  Americans were fascinated with all things “eskimo.”

Unfortunately, Nelson and Stover ran into legal troubles that drained their finances, and their business broke up in 1922. But two things came out of us that we still enjoy today: Eskimo Pies and their myriad offspring, and Russell Stover Candies. Yes, it’s the same Russell Stover. He left his ice cream past behind and went on to found one of the most recognized brands of American candies.

Source: The story of Eskimo Pies is told in Jeri Quinzio, Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making (University of California Press, 2009), 173-174. Wilbur ad from Confectioners Journal March 1922.

May 19, 2010 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Toy Novelties: Long After the Candy is Forgotten

A few days ago Adam Greenblatt, a reporter with, got in touch with me. He was working on a story about novelty iPhone apps, and wanted to talk about the history of toy novelties as a context for understanding our current obsession with apps that do useless but funny things like say “dude” over and over. It’s a great topic. Here’s a link to his article: “Stupid Stuff Your Smart Phone Can Do.”

I thought I would add a little bit to the story. Today, as one hundred years ago, Americans are suckers for the novelty, the latest gadget or toy or bauble that we just HAVE to have. But my sense is that the iPhone apps that Adam is interested in are totally disposable. We download them, show our friends a few times, then forget about them.

Novelties in the old days were not exactly the things you’d keep forever, not grandma’s china or anything like that.There were plenty of toy novelties that were probably seen as pretty disposable, like this 1919 jumping grasshopper made of brightly colored celluloid:

But in many cases, the selling of toy novelties alongside candy was really about having a longer, more lasting experience. The candy would be gone soon enough. But a truck or ball or necklace, well that was something you could hang on to for awhile. Candy toy novelties were like the trinket souvenirs that adults picked up at the World Fairs and Expositions that were the rage of the day: not worth so much, probably useless, but a tangible object that would recall and extend a fleeting pleasure.

The candy business and the toy novelty business really came up together. Machinery made it possible to produce candy faster and cheaper. And machinery, in many cases very similar machinery, made it possible to sell or give away little toy trinkets alongside that candy. Cracker Jacks started including metal dogs and rings with their candy coated popcorn in 1912. Other candies also included toy “gifts,” like this one from John H. Dockman and Son of Baltimore advertised in 1922:

Those kind of trinkets were common in candy stores catering to the kiddie trade, even as early as the 1890s. Tin trucks and miniature dolls could be offered as freebies to cultivate the loyalties of even the smallest customer. And candy shaped trucks and candy shaped dolls, made with molds and presses quite similar to the ones used for the metal toys, did double duty: toy and candy in one. Hard candies and suckers were frequently shaped like bunnies, fish, chickens, hands, trains, guns, hats, what have you. Here’s a 1922 toy shaped that recalls another exciting new technology, the automobile:

More substantial toy novelties or candy boxes added value to cheap candies, and the candies made the toys seem especially attractive. 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 candy up. Kandyscope shows that it wasn’t just children who might be interested in something fun. Adults were customers for other novelty items like balloons and pinwheels as well.

But the real toy novelty market was the kids. Here are fun tin boxes from Tin Decorating Co of Baltimore that could be filled with candies for an easy sale:

The real monetary value of these extras was probably a lot less than the perception of getting something extra, maybe even something for nothing. But even more appealing in the toy novelties was the idea that the short-lived pleasure of candy could be extended and made to last in a more permanent toy. That was the explicit appeal of the Candy Kum-Back Ball, a hollow candy-filled ball tethered on elastic that sold for 10 cents in 1922. It was “a toy that lasts, long after the candy is forgotten”:

Candy toys also became, in the years after World War I, another occasion to raise again the specter of the candy menace. By this time, pure food laws and improved marketing had quieted the accusations of “poison candy.” But that didn’t mean candy was safe, especially the doubly-fun sort of candy: candy watches, candy doggies, licorice in the shape of straws or pipes or pocket books, candy bead necklaces.

For example, here’s a licorice band watch which the kids will “eat up”:

Licorice and lollipops might be harmless materials in themselves. But when the kiddies started playing with their candy, and then stuffing it in their mouths, alarm bells would go off:

[These toys] are inveterate germ collectors when used as playthings, and a deadly menace to the health of the child when finally eaten.

Health officials like Robert Simmers, the Pennsylvania State Dairy and Food Commissioner, began raising the alarm, and reformers soon followed. Modern, up to date people of course would stay away from these things. But the editors of Confectioners Journal, sympathetic to the upstanding candy sellers who would never stoop to harm a child,  found someone easy enoug to blame:

They are mostly sold to elderly people who keep small candy stores near schoolhouses. These people have no knowledge of the nature of germs… They buy freely, knowing the candy will be popular with children, and sell with a clear conscience to the little tots.

I felt pretty smug when I read that. Those dirty old time candies! But then I remembered the huge collection of sweaty Hello Kitty candy necklaces my daughter amassed when she was three. And the ring lollipops. And the candy lipsticks. A deadly menace! Or just harmless candy toys…

Sources: “Is ‘Double Purpose’ Candy Harmful?”, Confectioners Journal November 1921, p. 121, and follow up August 1922, p. 120. Ad images from Confectioners Journal, from years immediately after WW I as indicated and: licorice watch, John Meuller Licorice Co., Cincinnati OH, 1922; candy tins, Tin  Decorating Company, Baltimore MD 1921.

April 30, 2010 at 8:33 am 1 comment

Candy Bar Fillers

What’s inside your favorite candy bar? Could be all kinds of yummy stuff: crispies, nuts, creme, something chewy, cookie wafers, raisins, coconut. I look at all those amazing combinations and I’m wowed by American candy ingenuity.

So when I found out why all that stuff is in our candy bars, I was surprised. Ingenuity, yes. But first, necessity.

Between 1916 and 1922, prices of everything were going up, and supplies were going down. It was that pesky war thing. One candy lover kept track of the size of his favorite penny roll of candy, getting smaller from 1916 to 1922:

If you were making wafers or chocolate drops, you could either raise the price or, as in the case of those penny rolls, lower the quantity. But if you were making candy bars, there was another option: filler. Something to bulk the candy up, but at a lower price than sugar or chocolate. And if it tasted good, so much the better.

Candy fillers start appearing in 1918. The ads that I’ve seen in the trade journals make a very explicit appeal to candy makers. The whole idea was to do more with less.

In July, 1918, the California Associated Raisin Company extolled the use of raisins in candy: “Nowadays when all fillers are high-priced, Sun Maid Raisins can help you. The more raisins you use, the bigger your profits.” That same year, the Cincinnati Extract Works advertised its cherry, raspberry, and strawberry pieces with the header: “Conserve Sugar by Using Fruit Centers for Candies.” Merrell-Soule of Syracuse,  N.Y. brought out a “New Filler” called Confectioners Mince. Candy-makers were instructed to “use it as you would use any other filler. It conserves sugar.” Coconut was popular, and as an added bonus it was a good filler too.

Grains and cereals were especially attractive as fillers. They were cheap and bulky, and perhaps interesting in flavor and texture as well. The Baltimore Pearl Hominy Company promoted “Fairy Flakes” as a good substitute for up to half the coconut in coconut bars.

Quaker Oats Company offered this proposition:

There is a way–a splendid way–whereby candy may be made with the greatest possible bulkiness–at the lowest possible cost–with the minimum amount of sugar… The problem of selling the consumer big satisfying dimes worth of high grade goods is solved. … This epoch-making candy ingredient is Puffed Wheat–or for that matter, Puffed Rice or Corn Puffs.

The candy-stretching powers of this new invention, puffed grain, would make it again possible to offer “the old-time size at the old-time price.”

Liberal use of nougat, creme, and caramel in candy combination was likewise the result of sugar conservation. New food processors had developed bases for these ingredients that used corn syrup or other sugars that were not rationed. The nougat and caramel bases were advertised as saving time and money, and thereby boosting the bottom line.

The direct ancestors of what we know today as the “candy bar,” innovative concoctions appearing in 1919 and 1920 like Planters’ Chocolate Cluster Bar (peanuts, fruit, coconut and chocolate), Continental Candy Corp.’s Feasto (chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts) or Mason’s Cocoanut Peaks (“Purity and Plenty”) were no doubt delicious. But they were something more as well: the ingenious inventions of clever candy makers who took economic necessity and made something sweet.

April 26, 2010 at 8:30 am 3 comments

Fresher in Cellophane

Oooh...that candy looks good!

This 1958 Du Pont ad declares: “Candy’s at its best in Cellophane!”

And it was no exaggeration. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Cellophane was the very best wrapping material for candy. Cellophane was transparent and impermeable. This made it the ideal wrapping material for Americans who were worried about germs but who were also very picky shoppers. Cellophane meant they could see what they were getting, but still be confident that “germs” were kept out.

From the very beginning, candy makers loved cellophane. Some industry observers dated the birth of the modern candy trade to 1923, the year Du Pont began manufacturing Cellophane in the U.S. Cellophane revolutionized the packaging of candies. Individually wrapped candies sparkled, like glowing gems, a huge leap from the old dull waxed papers. Cellophane could be make into transparent bags for bulk candies, the whole package a tantalizing window on the candy inside. For the high-end market, cellophane covered and sealed fancy boxed candies, guaranteeing hygienic freshness. The candy buying consumers certainly found these qualities appealing. But Cellophane also helped the candy seller. Candy wrapped in Cellophane would maintain its freshness and visual appeal for longer periods, so merchants worried less about old goods. And wrapped candies could be sold as a “self-service” item to be stocked on modern grocery store shelves, which would mean fewer expensive clerks to serve the customers.

1936: “Delicious hard candy, Can NOW be kept handy!”

“New, clean wrap is a sweet idea!”

Ads from the 1930s emphasized cleanliness and convenience. The individually wrapped candies in these ads will be happy in a pocket or handbag, with no worry for sticky messes. The girl peering over the candy bin seems ready to reach in for a handfull. There is no clerk standing over her waiting for her order. She can just help herself! Compare this image of the open candy bins to the image of a 1900s candy store in Ye Olde Candy Shoppe.

1937: “Each piece always clean, never sticky, easy to carry!”

Many of these ads feature sweet little girls. But of course: little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” and what is nicer or sweeter than fresh candy!

Here’s adorable Shirley Temple pouring out a candy dish in a 1954 ad.

In the 1950s ads, Du Pont emphasized the official line of the NCA, “Candy is Delicious Quick-Energy Food.” The advantage of Cellophane is to keep the candy fresh. In this and the ad at the top of the page, the candy is wrapped in Cellophane bag. Compare this to the 1930s ads, which suggest the little girls might be choosing individual pieces of candy. By the 1950s, the children’s candy market had moved away from little penny candies (see Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy).

1955: “You can be sure candy is fresh and clean–and you can see to choose the kind you like best–when you buy CANDY IN CELLOPHANE.”

Is the “you” who buys the candy the mother? She’s probably the one who cares that the candy is fresh and clean. Or is it the kids? They can choose the kind they like best. The jelly beans they are holding are pre-packaged in the Cellophane bag. It’s a pretty big sack, not likely to be purchased by a child alone. Candy here is something mother buys for her children, not something they go out to buy for themselves.

Related Posts:

  • La Cellophane
  • Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy
  • Ye Olde Candy Shoppe
  • January 22, 2010 at 11:41 am 2 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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