Posts filed under ‘Packaging’
I’ve always looked at those fancy candy boxes with their lucious chocolates and bon bons and imagined plump ladies lounging on their divans.
So I nearly fainted when I saw this 1926 ad for a different kind of candy box:
The Four Queens: pull the ribbon, and a different “queen” appears. In full length view. In the, ahem, nude.
Clearly this box is not something you’re going to take home to the missus. This is more something for the office, a little hoo-ha with the boys in the executive suite.
Men were eating candy like crazy in the 1920s and 1930s, and from the looks of this box, they didn’t mind mixing their pleasures. Feminist red flag alert: Mouth candy, eye candy, evidently they’re not so far apart.
Today candy novelties are mostly cheap plastic toys, usually generic one-offs. Advertising and brand loyalty are the keys to the success of the biggest candy companies.
High-quality candy novelties were much more important in the early days of the candy industry. Success in the candy business hinged on moving quickly to introduce new kinds of candy and new novelties to catch the eye of child or adult shopper. Higher priced candy was often bought as a gift, and clever or eye catching presentations would increase a gift’s value. For children’s candies, the novelty could transform a simple candy into something much more appealing.
These candy dolls from the 1920s were manufactured by Huyler’s, a large confectioner better known for quality chocolates. Although these goods are for children, they would have been sold at higher-priced shops and department stores alongside Huyler’s chocolate goods and similar candies. Each was made by hand. These candy dolls appear primitive to the modern eye, but must have been charming and appealing to a child in the 1920s.
The first is described as a “grotesque candy doll … of a type to endear it to the hearts of children.” I think in this context “grotesque” is supposed to mean “comical,” but you can judge for yourself:
Here is Simple Simon, fashioned of candy sticks, with his chocolate pies. The book motif is cleverly carried through from the shape of the box to the hand-written rhyme, with the figures and candies playing out the theme.
In the Simple Simon package, the Huyler’s name is featured prominently. The transformation of candy box into part of a toy novelty assures that the manufacturer’s name stays in the child’s mind. The novelties are not only for children’s delight, but also to build business:
The children of today are the candy buyers of the future. [These novelties] give the manufacturer a chance to get first place in the child’s affections.
Source: Edward T. Tandy, “Place of Novelties in Merchandising,” Confectioners Journal April 1921 (Printers Ink March 1921)
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.
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:
Black Crows: do you know this candy? It’s a venerable gummy licorice drop, from the same people who bring you fruity Dots. But while Dots are in every movie concession and drug store bin that I come across, I never see the Crows. I suspect they are a little less popular. After all, it’s a licorice candy for starters, not America’s favorite flavor these days. And then there is the name. Crows? I mean, those are some big and spooky birds.
I’m not the only one who thinks the name is a little strange. The legend of Black Crows is that they weren’t supposed to be named “Crows” at all. The story (and you’ll find it at Wikipedia and every other “candy nostalgia” book and web site) is that when Brooklyn candy makers Mason, Au, and Magenheimer sent out to have the first labels printed up, somehow the printer got confused and instead of Black Rose, the labels came back with Black Crows. And Black Crows it has been ever since.
It seems an easy mistake: when you say it out loud, black rose does sound exactly like black crows. But Richard, over at The Bewildered Brit, pointed out that this story seemed a little unlikely. He thought it would have made more sense to call the candy “black roses,” but “black crowses” doesn’t make any sense. I agreed with Richard that the whole thing seemed odd. So I started looking for early evidence of Black Crows to decide for my self if the story of Black Rose made any sense. Here’s what I found.
We do know for a fact that Mason, Au applied to trademark the name “Black Crows” in 1911 (the trademark was approved Dec. 12, 1912, U.S. Serial 71058363).
In the trademark application, the candy makers assert that the name “Black Crows” has been in continuous use in commerce since 1890. That means that in 1890, they were selling the candy as “Black Crows.” No sign of “Black Rose” here.
I found an advertisement for Black Crows published in January 1919:
What is interesting here is that Black Crows are sold in bulk. They are shipped to retailers in big five pound boxes, or in forty pound cases. There is a label on the box, as you can see. But when the candy is sold to the candy-eater at the candy shop, it is going to be scooped out of the box and put into a sack. Whether the label says “Black Crows” or “Black Rose” or “Black Nose” or “Black Panty Hose” hardly matters. If Mason, Au had wanted to call their candy sold in big bulk boxes “Black Rose” back in 1890, and they got the wrong labels, why would they toss the name they had chosen when the name on the label is so irrelevant to how the candy gets sold?
As the January ad announces, Mason, Au was working on a five cent package. It came out in July, 1919. Here’s the ad:
Notice the copy reads: “No Weighing, No Wrapping, Just Selling.” In the nineteen-teens, the idea of pre-packaged candy took off. When unwrapped candy is being scooped out of glass jars or big boxes, the buyer can’t really know what “brand” the candy might be (and this was something of an issue for many candy makers who were trying to capture some market share). Boxes like this Black Crows were revolutionizing the way candy was being sold and packaged, and making the brand and the packaging more and more important to the sale.
When the candy is displayed in these individual packages, it really does matter what name is on the candy box. The individual boxes will be displayed and customers will recognize the brand based on the packaging. If the printer had screwed up all the printing on individual retail packages like this, that would have been a big deal. But in 1890, no such packaging existed.
In sum: Black Crows was the name of the candy going all the way back to 1890. n 1890, there was no such thing as a candy wrapper. The way candy was packaged and sold meant that a “printers error” for a box label would have been easy to work around. Given the absence of any actual evidence that the candy was ever called Black Rose, we can only conclude that the story is a myth.
But as I’m discovering, the candy past is as much myth and legend as it is fact. The “Black Rose” story is another of those candy fabulations, like the story of why Hershey’s named their candy “kiss,” or the story of the invention of the Tootsie Roll. They are all nice stories that add to the mystery and romance of the candy past. Candy is a special product, one we associate with pleasure and fun, and it’s not surprising that we’d hope that the stories behind our candies would be more interesting than the stories behind socks or soap.
Unfortunately, most of the story of candy in America is just the story of business: a product, a market, a sale, companies growing and prospering, or losing their foothold and failing. Not much fodder for the cocktail party circuit, alas. Pity the poor kill-joy historian who just must get it right.
So why would we need the “Black Rose” story anyway? I think it has something to do with changing perceptions of candy and candy eaters. Today, the chewy licorice gum drop is sold alongside similar sugar candies like Mike and Ike, Dots, Skittles: sure, grownups may eat it, but it’s basically kids candy. But if you look at the older packaging above, you can see it’s quite atmospheric and spooky. A century ago, candy like Black Crows wasn’t associated with children or cartoons, it was a serious candy. So a spooky black crow wasn’t so odd. But today, that image doesn’t match the idea of kiddie candies. So we have the new Black Crows logo: a jaunty, jokey cartoon crow. And we have the legend of “black rose,” that the crow wasn’t really a crow after all.
One last tidbit: Black Crows ad in the 1920s emphasize their quality: they are flavored with real anise seed and licorice, they do not harden or deteriorate, and they are pure and wholesome. But you might be surprised about the color:
They are colored with charcoal, which is beneficial to the stomach.
I’m pretty sure they took the charcoal out some time back. But that explains the nice black color!
Sources: Black Crows ads appeared in Confectioners Journal, Jan. and June 1919. Quote from Mason, Au & Magenheimer ad for Black Crows, Confectioners Journal September 1921 p. 74.
In it’s May 1913 issue, the trade journal International Confectioner featured some of the five and ten cent packages offered by the better known candy makers. Such packaging of candy was still relatively novel; not every candy was put up in its own wrapping, and a lot of candy was put in bags or fancier boxes at the time of purchase, requiring the service of a clerk. The editor introduced the feature with some comments on the virtues of these new packages (as well as some run on sentences):
These are the goods that sell themselves, as they lay upon the retailers’ counter, the customer cannot help picking one up and paying his money, the reason is, that they look so tempting and are so easily bought; for it must be remembered that the public is extremely lazy and will sometimes not even take the trouble to ask the price.
Most of the goods featured are from manufacturers long gone. But two are still around today: H. O. Wilbur and Son, and Stephen F. Whitman, both of Philadelphia. Today, Wilbur is owned by Cargill, and Whitman’s by Russell Stover, but the brand and the tradition of each go way back into the nineteeth century.
So what were these venerable confectioners selling one hundred years ago in the five and ten cent lines?
Here are some of Wilbur’s offerings. The Wilbur Bud (2) was a huge success of course: little cones of chocolate wrapped in foil. But Wilbur also made a line of eating chocolates, as pictured here. The depiction of the little cherub stirring the chocolate is especially charming. The editor points out that these confections are well known since Wilbur had, by 1912, been selling chocolates for thirty years. Wilbur’s American Milk Chocolate (1) is “one of the first milk chocolates made in this country.” Wilbur’s Sweet Clover Chocolate was “advertised for outdoors and for the camper, hunter, etc.,” a rugged image at odds with the dainty wrapper. The Milk Chocolate is a five cent bar, the rest are ten cents.
Today we associate the name “Whitman’s” with the Whitman’s Sampler, that box of mixed chocolate candies that everyone has given and received at least once. But here we see Whitman’s with a full assortment of offerings, including spice gum drops, nut nougat (in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry), Jordan almonds (assorted flavors), cream cocoanut bar, “Mallo-Caros” (caramel with marshmallow center) and the unfortunate and embarrassing “Pickaninny Peppermints.”
About those Pickaninny Peppermints: stylized and stereotypical images of African Americans were not uncommon in the packaging and advertising of goods in the twentieth century. Truly, it was not until the Civil Rights movement that such images became widely regarded as prejudiced and unacceptable. My first impulse was just to not post this, as it feels offensive to our sense of civility and mutual respect for every citizen. But this is what it was, not always pretty. It’s worth noting that such images did not appear very frequently in candy packaging, at least not in the sources that I have had access to.
Wikipedia’s entry on Whitman Candies tells the rest of the story of Pickaninny Peppermints:
In the early 20th century, Pickaninny Peppermints were a popular Whitman confection. However, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and, at the time, NAACP lawyer took issue with the name. In a 1941 article directed at Whitman’s published in the Afro-American, Marshall urged Whitman’s Candies to realize its racial insensitivity. Whitman’s denied that the term “pickaninny” was racist and responded to Marshall by saying that it meant “cute colored kid.” Despite this, the product was soon dropped. (Reference: Baltimore Afro-American, Nov. 22 1941, p.1)
For more on Wilbur and the Wilbur Buds, see my posts: Kissing Cousins: the Hershey’s Kiss and the Wilbur Bud and Hershey’s: Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss
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.