Posts tagged ‘candy land’

Candy Land: Fun for Kids? or Not. (New Publication)

Ever wondered what the board game Candy Land has to do with polio, Hansel and Gretel, and rotten teeth? Now, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Candy Professor Research Labs, all your Candy Land questions are answered.

You can read the full story in the latest issue of The American Journal of Play. My article is called “Polio comes Home: Pleasure and Paralysis in Candy Land.” Since you probably don’t have a subscription yet, here is a handy link to my article.

The article is a bit of an octopus, I start with the origins of the game and then spin out to make connections with candy, literature, parenting, cold-war culture, education, disease and health. It was fun to write (and my apologies if it isn’t as fun to read as this blog, it is a bit, ahem, academic).

I started researching Candy Land because of the candy, of course. But the candy is not the whole story. This game is one of the most successful board games ever. So why is it that most people find it so boring, not fun at all? I began my research with the small fact that Candy Land was invented by a school teacher who was recovering from polio. This led me to consider the connections between the game and broader ideas about childhood, safety, learning, and play. Despite the huge commercial success of Candy Land, I’m not convinced the game has much to do with real kids or fun. Instead, I think the game tells us a lot about adult ideas about children: what children should like, what they should do, how they should play safely.

Keeping kids safe seems to be the major theme of parenting these days. It is so interesting to me that Candy Land repeats this theme both as a game and in the candy image. Better to keep the kids busy with a board game and send their imaginary pawns on an imaginary adventure than let them roam the vicious streets! And better to keep they sated with imaginary pictures of candy than to let them eat the real stuff.

It isn’t just Candy Land of course. It’s helmets and padding and fenced yards and organic snacks and Wii. It’s “don’t” and “be careful” and “you might fall” and “no.” It’s adults who can’t just leave kids to be kids. Candy Land looks fun, but it is a totally fake kind of fun: nothing to do, and no candy to eat. Safe and boring. As far as I’m concerned, Candy Land is a perfect metaphor for the rip-off that is contemporary childhood.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear comments on this project.

May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am 6 comments

Kids, Candy, and the Law

Penny candy has been on my mind lately. Penny candy is of course kid’s candy. I have a fantasy that back in the olden days, kids could just go buy whatever candy they wanted, whenever they wanted. Pennies aren’t so hard to come by, after all (look under the pillows of your couch).

But it turns out that not every one agreed that children should be free to spend their pennies as they chose. In 1909, a Brooklyn alderman came to the city council with a plan: to make it a crime to buy candy. That’s right: he wanted to make it illegal for any child under the age of 16 to purchase candy, unless they were with their parents or some responsible relative. And he meant business: the law would include fines from $10 to $50 (a week’s wages for many) and from 10 to sixty days imprisonment. Luckily for the kids of Brooklyn, the ordinance got shot down.

The full force of the law seems a pretty big stick to keep kids away from their candies.

And if some though it should be a crime for kids to buy candies for themselves, others were willing to go further. How about the citizen who wrote to the New York papers with this suggestion: make it illegal for any one over the age of 14 to offer or give candy to anyone under 14. The reason they gave? To cut down on kidnapping. Uh huh. Because the kidnappers are going to think twice if they realize that the candy lure they are using is against the law…

About those stick candies in the image: those are the original version of the kind of “old fashioned stick candies” you see today every once in a while.  They were about 2 1/2 inches long, wrapped in wax paper with a paper label that stated the flavor. They sold for a penny a piece at the shop; this ad is selling to the retalier, a box of 450 sticks at $2.25.  Some of the flavors in this box are pretty familiar: lemon, peppermint, spearmint. But there is also sassafrass, clove, and rose. Sassafrass is similar to root beer, and clove is a flavor you might find these days in spice drops or Necco wafers, but I don’t know any rose flavored candies!

Source: Confectioners Journal Feb 1909 p. 74: “A Weird Story from Brooklyn”; Confectioners Journal May 1914 p. 102 (no title).

January 25, 2010 at 8:03 am Leave a comment

The Gruesome King of Candy Land

By 1890, candy was everywhere. It was cheap, and it was plentiful, and children with just a penny or two could enjoy an afternoon of sucking and chewing and licking all sorts of sweet stuff.

Not everybody was happy about this. Adult reformers and alarmists were appalled at the spectacle of children choosing and enjoying their own treats. No good could come of it. Adults who sought to save children from their own worst impulses did not hesitate to use dramatic scare tactics to persuade youngsters, and their overly lax parents, of the evils of candy.

Here is one version of didactic anti-candy literature, a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that was published in several magazines in the 1890s. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was best known for her inspirational and sentimental popular poetry. You can see here that, when children’s teeth and stomachs seemed in danger, she would not hesitate to go over to the dark side.


The King of Candy Land
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (c. 1890)

Have you heard of the King of Candy Land?
Well,listen while I sing;
He has pages on every hand,
For he is a mighty king,
And thousands of children bend the knee
And bow to this ruler of high degree.

He has a smile, O! like the sun,
And his face is crowned and bland;
His bright eyes twinkle and glow with fun,
As the children kiss his hand;
And every thing toothsome, melting sweet,
He scatters freely before their feet.

But woe! for the children who follow him,
With loving praise and laughter,
For he is a monster, ugly and grim,
That they go running after:
And when they get well into the chase,
He lifts his mask and shows his face.

And O! that is a grewsome sight,
For the followers of the king:
The cheeks grow pale that once were bright,
And they sob instead of sing;
And their teeth drop out and their eyes grow red,
And they cannot sleep when they go to bed.

And often they see the monster’s face,–
They have no peaceful hour;
And they have aches in every place,
And what was sweet seems sour.
O, woe! for that foolish sorrowful band
Who follow the King of Candy Land.

While I don’t recall candy ever giving me nightmares when I was a child, I suspect this poem might have done the trick.

Related Posts:

  • Poetry and Candy Lands, 1875
  • December 18, 2009 at 8:50 am 3 comments

    Poetry and Candy Lands, 1875

    kings crown

    Candy Land was a recurrent theme of popular children’s literature in the late nineteenth century. Poems and stories frequently featured children dreaming of a candy land, or being whisked away by the wind and landing in a candy forest, or taking a train by invitation of the King to a land of Candy. These candy lands represented the ideal of children’s desires: children, like candy, were seen as being sweet and insubstantial. Children, left to their own desires, would be expected to desire nothing so much as unlimited sweets.

    “The King of Candy-Land” appeared in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion in 1875. This writer describes a child’s dream of a land of candy, where every lovely thing tastes as good as it looks. In this benign vision, Candy-Land is a land far away from ideas about proper meals and sugar making you sick. There are no nagging grownups here to stand in the way of the child’s pleasure. It’s all candy, and it’s all good.

    King of Candy-Land
    by Hugh Howard (1875)

    I had such a lovely dream last night!
    It was truly so fine and grand!
    I thought I was king, all alone by myself,
    Of a land called Candy-Land!

    I dwelt in the great lemon-cocoanut walls
    Of a palace just to my taste;
    With its furniture made out of all things nice,
    From taffy to jujube paste!

    With rarest of candies at every turn,
    Obedient slaves would wait,
    And my throne was studded with peppermint-drops,
    And carved out of chocolate!

    And O, ’twas such fun as I wandered through
    Those beautiful rooms alone,
    To bite off a morsel of sofa or chair,
    Or nibble a bit of throne!

    This poem is somewhat unusual for the “candy land” genre in so far as there are no negative consequences that result from the child’s indulgence in (imaginary) candy. In fact, the child in this poem dreams of having all the power, of being “king, all alone.” When he is put to bed, he is but a powerless child who only gets candy when Mama says yes. But when he enters his dream, he becomes the powerful King who is lavished with candies by his “obedient slaves.” The reversal of power suggests another idea in this poem as well: a rebellion against adult expectations of “proper behavior” and good manners. In Candy-Land, the child is free to lick the walls and bite the furniture and enjoy his own power as king. Back in his mother’s parlor, such destruction would surely result in a spanking.

    In the next post, I’ll share an example of a much darker vision of what will happen to children if they give in to their desire for candy.

    Related Posts:

  • The Gruesome King of Candy Land
  • Source: Hugh Howard, Children’s Column: “King of Candy-Land,” The Youth’s Companion 14 October 1875.

    December 16, 2009 at 9:36 am 1 comment

    Christmas Candy Lands: The Nutcracker

    My family celebrates Christmas at this time of the year. One tradition is the annual SHOW. Some years it was Handel’s Messiah (I love to sing along, especially the loud parts). Other years I’ve taken my daughter to the Julie Taymor production of Mozart’s Magic Flute, a ravishing spectacle at the Metropolitan Opera. And some years we go see the Balanchine staging of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

    Given its checkered history, it is bit surprising that the Nutcracker has become such a fixture on the American holiday scene. The first performance of the ballet was in St. Petersburg in 1892. Although the music itself became extremely popular, the ballet was not a big hit. The work was not performed outside Russia until 1933, and premiered in the U.S. in San Francisco in 1944. But it was not until George Balanchine’s staging for the New York City Ballet that the Nutcracker found its way into America’s heart. From New York City, the ballet and the traditional Christmas season performance slowly spread. Today, every city and town in the U.S. offers some version of the Nutcracker at Christmas time, whether it is the local ballet school recital or the fully staged spectacle with international ballet stars or former Olympic skaters in a "Nutcracker on Ice."

    Why is the Nutcracker so popular? You and I both know the reason: its the candy. Once you get through the drama and conflict of the first act, the whole second half is a celebration of sweetness. There is Marzipan, Chocolate, the Candy Canes, Mother Ginger and the Ponchinelles, and of course the Sugar Plum Fairy.

    These are sketches for set designs for the 1892 staging. In the Balanchine version, the Kingdom of Sweets looks even more candy-licious. Why not spend a wintery hour imagining yourself in a candy kingdom?


    December 14, 2009 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    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.

    (C) Samira Kawash

    All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
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