Posts tagged ‘children’s candy’

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

    Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy

    Young boy (6-8) holding a bag of candy

    If you were a kid in the 1930s, you knew a lot about penny candy. It was what kids could afford, their biggest indulgence, their own consumer paradise. They were cheap, colorful, varied, and sold directly to children at the little candy stores. Familiar candies like marshmallows, licorice, hard candies, suckers, caramels and the like were sold at so many per penny. Like most candy before the rise of the “self-service” supermarket in the late 1940s, penny candies were dispensed from bins or boxes by the clerk, and they were usually not wrapped or branded. The rise of wrapping technologies and materials, especially after the first world war, as well as the new importance of advertising in the 1920s, began to shift some of the children’s market to wrapped goods and bars costing 5 or 10 cents. But penny candies continued to be the major kiddie attraction. Penny candies were a big part of childhood in those days:

    They would keep a child wondering and looking for a long time before spending his small change. There used to be bright red cinnamon drops at a cent a tiny cup. And big yellow or green gum drops at two for a penny. And coconut strips the colors of the flag in waxed paper.

    Langston Hughes

    That’s Langston Hughes, believe it or not. He is best known as one of America’s most beloved poets and a major figure in African American literature. He also was an unrepentant candy lover. And a sad candy lover: by 1948, when he wrote the essay I’m quoting, penny candy had all but disappeared.

    In the 1940s the children’s candy market began to experience dramatic changes. By 1946, the portion of the total candy output that was produced for the penny market had fallen to less than 4 percent. Both long term and short term forces conspired to make penny candy a nostalgic memory by mid-century. Penny candy had always represented the bottom end of the candy trade. “Better” candy stores avoided penny candy sales, viewing the children’s trade as an inconvenience and a distraction. Profit margins on penny goods were razor thin, and the penny candy merchant had to spend more on labor to serve the demanding but small-spending customers making numerous small purchases. The U.S. entry into World War II in 1942 brought the rationing of sugar and other candy ingredients. The candy industry succeeded in having candy designated an “essential food,” thereby assuring their continued access to sugar and other necessary commodities, but prices rose significantly. During the years of the war, about half the nation’s candy production went to provisioning the military, thereby creating reducing the amount of candy that could be sold domestically. The result of these forces was to drive out the penny candy trade. Bulk and box candies were far more profitable, and manufacturers, even those with nostalgic ties to the candy past, could no longer make economic sense of the penny lines.

    No one was more eloquent in mourning than Hughes, who described the parched candy landscape that had replaced the jeweled palaces of his childhood:

    Nowadays, most of the candies displayed in grocery shops (at least in the big towns) seem to be the standard brands of Hershey’s and O. Henry’s the same from coast to coast–monotonously unvarying–and costing a nickel or more. Not even a child can shop for a penny in this day and age. And they don’t have the fun of peeping and peering and puzzling and selecting such as one had when faced with a wonderful array of unwrapped penny candies in the old days.

    Source: Langston Hughes, “Childhood Memories Of Good Old Home,” The Chicago Defender 18 December 1948.

    January 20, 2010 at 7:33 am 3 comments

    Chocolate War Rations, Round One

    Ship cannon on gun

    In my previous post, I shared some war-themed ads for children’s candy from the WWI era. It’s not surprising that candy makers would jump on the war bandwagon by using war imagery and themes to attract attention. But at the same time, the candy trade was also working very hard to position its product as an essential support for the war effort.

    Everyone expected that war would bring rationing and scarcity. The economic viability of the candy business depended on defining candy as food, as a necessity for every day life. Candy makers used every means they could to bring this message to their customers. Here’s the copy from another ad for Zatek Eatmors, this one from 1917:

    Show the children how to make an Eatmor Cannon. Zatek Milk Chocolate Eatmors will feed a whole army of hungry soldiers. Appoint one child “Quartermaster” and let him issue the “rations.” [image of chocolate stars flying out of tube/cannon, children playing with cannon and soldiers on the floor indoors, girl and boy]. The sealed Eatmor tube makes sure that each soldier receives his portion clean and fresh. The 28 or more sweet-milk-chocolate-stars are ample to go around. Their wholesome nourishment provides the necessary ’pep’ for long marches and trench warfare.

    The message is cleverly double: the children are playing soldier, and the chocolate will give them “pep” for their play. But also we are meant to read this ad literally: chocolate provides real nourishment for real soldiers. Real cannons kill the enemy, of course. But chocolate cannons keep the troops going and, perhaps, win the war.

    Candy, and chocolate in particular, was increasingly seen as the ideal ration under the dangers of war. As early as 1914, when the war broke out in Europe, U.S. candy makers took note of the popularity of chocolate among European armies as “a favorite emergency ration on account of its small bulk and the large amount of nutriment it contains.”

    And then on in 1917 the life saving virtues of chocolate made the headlines. On June 1, two British aviators who had been shot down over the North Sea were finally rescued. They had been floating on wreckage for five days, sustained only by a small piece of chocolate which they shared. The U.S. Navy took note. In July, they announced “a new emergency ration, for issuance to the marines and sailors who may be ordered into action under circumstances which may result in their being separated for more than a day from their base of supplies. The ration will consist of biscuit and either a highly nutritious form of chocolate or peanut butter.”

    By the time World War II came around, chocolate manufacturers were ready with U.S. military-approved field ration chocolate bars. But that’s another story.

    Sources: “Troops and Chocolate,” International Confectioner November 1914, p. 42; “Aviators 5 Days on Wreckage Lived on a Piece of Chocolate,” New York Times, 2 June 1917; (No title: comment on Navy rations) International Confectioner August 1917, p. 57.

    January 15, 2010 at 7:42 am 1 comment

    Let’s Play War Candy!

    Toy soldiers on market stall, customers in background (focus on toys)

    What do you tell your children about the war? In my house, we try to avoid talk of violence, terrorism, torture, guns and bombs. My daughter is only six, and somehow I cling to the idea that I can shield her from the harsh realities for a little while longer.

    So when I found ads for children’s candy from the era of World War I that emphasized war and weaponry, I was a bit surprised.

    Zatek Milk Chocolate Eatmors were chocolate drops (similar to Hershey’s chocolate kisses) sold in a tube. Before WWI, ads for Eatmors suggested that kids could use the tube as a megaphone when they were finished with the candy. Then in 1916 they started a new campaign with a new toy idea:

    Boom! the War is on. Children all over this peaceful land are having the time of their lives making toy cannons out of ZATEK Eatmor tubes and playing war. Each Eatmor cannon is loaded with 24 or more ’solid shot’ of pure, sweet, creamy milk chocolate.

    The ads included diagrams showing how kids could turn the tubes into little play cannons by adding paper wheels, and a scene with brother and sister down on the playroom rug surrounded by toy soldiers and the Eatmor cannon.

    The R.E. Rodda Company of Lancaster PA took the theme of national war preparedness for its 1916 line of penny candy novelties. Children could have 6 submarines, or 5 torpedo-boat destroyers, or 4 battleships for their penny purchase. Their ad copy featured a parody of the war-time news reels and tabloid headlines of the day:

    Almost since the day the phrase, ’National Preparedness’ was born, we have been building (?) Battleships, Torpedo-Boat Destroyers and Submarines, until now we have a fleet second to none, and can supply each man, woman and child with a navy of their own. This is– National Preparedness.

    Don’t wait for this ’bomb’ to drop in your territory–’arm yourself’ with a stock of these goods at once! Don’t ’defeat’ your opportunity for ’an overwhelming success’ this season, by running into doubt ’entanglements.’ Get busy! ’Mobilize’ your forces and begin ’the attack’ on the trade. ’Fire away’ with your orders–as stated before–we are Prepared!”

    The U.S. joined the war officially in August 1917. But these advertisements from 1916 give a good idea of how deeply the feeling that war was coming had penetrated into the national spirit. We get a sense of jauntiness and confidence from the language of these ads: war is a good adventure, with little to fear. Candy cannons and submarines seem to transform war into a big game: its fun, if you know how to play.

    For us today, the message “war is fun!” seems a little uncomfortable. Even more uncomfortable for me as a parent is the use of candy to encourage children to see the war as normal and fun. The “unconscious” work of these war candies and their advertising is to make every citizen, no matter how small, a participant in the war effort.

    On the other hand, war is real. Are we doing more harm than good by sheltering our twenty-first century children from anything that would hint at the brutal truth?

    Sources: Pennsylvania Chocolate Company ad for Zatek Eatmors, Confectioners Journal May 1916, p. 27; R.E. Rodda Candy Company ad, Confectioners Journal April 1916, p. 19.

    January 13, 2010 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

    Pez and the 1950s Children’s Candy Market

    Candy Land observed a moment of silence on December 15, 2009, to mark the passing of Curtis Allina, presumed inventor of the Pez character dispenser. The first Pez marketed for children were full-bodied likenesses of Santa and a robot, in 1955. Pez dispensers were not the first or the only candy toy novelty. But no other candy toy has approached the brilliance of the Pez Head, in its simple appeal and infinite variety.

    When Pez came to the U.S. from Austria in the early 1950s, it was as an adult peppermint sold in a suave dispenser that resembled James Bond’s gold cigarette lighter, and shared its sleek cosmopolitan gleam. Such trifles were more successful in Vienna than in Vermont, though, and Pez stumbled in the U.S. market. Then Allina, or someone working for him, had the idea to re-package the mints as fruit-flavored children’s candies. But why did they imagine that marketing candy to children might be a winning bet?

    The fact was, no one much noticed those little candy munching kiddies before the 1950s.

    Oh, the kids bought candy, to be sure. One or two pennies at a time, hoarded and carefully extracted from a sticky pocket after spending an hour loitering in front of the candy displays. Hardly the most promising customer base. The penny candy trade was always at the edges of the candy business. No respectable adult with more than five or ten cents to rub together would bother with the little shops where kids hung out and clerks spent the day swatting away grubby hands and dripping noses. In articles on cost accounting and business-building published in the candy journals, bean-counters encouraged candy makers and candy sellers to give up the penny trade: it just didn’t pay.

    World War II pretty much killed off penny candy. There was sugar rationing, and much candy production was diverted to supply the troops with their requisite sweets. Candy ads from the period encourage Americans to be patient if they can’t find their favorite candies in stock, shorages were just a part of the war effort. Whatever by way of sugar, chocolate and the like that was left for the domestic market went to the manufacture of higher priced, more profitable goods. But of course, there were still children, and they still were going to be eating candy.

    Around 1947, as the war wound down and things started getting back to normal, candy makers began looking around and noticing all those candy-hungry kids. Things were different, now, to be sure. Kids weren’t getting pennies the way they used to. The unwrapped penny goods were, in any case, gone. And mothers were more concerned both with regulating the money their kids had to spend, and with exercising more control over their children’s candy habits. At the same time, modern ideas about advertising, marketing, and packaging encouraged candy makers and sellers to start thinking more creatively about their customers and how to build their business.

    At first, the idea was just to draw the attention of children: what price? what sort of wrapper? what sort of display? And to soothe the mothers: this candy is wholesome! this candy is clean!

    But by 1952, the idea of a distinct children’s market had begun to inspire amazing innovations in promotion and sales which far surpassed tentative explorations of the late 1940s. A trade article on “Candy Packaging for the Small Fry” suggests the imaginative range of possibilities for packaging: There were “Play Money Pops” with cardboard coins; “Wild West Pops” with small Western toys; “Tasty Pops” which promised an educational candy experience with their new “Wheel-a-Word combination spelling game and bank that teaches children how to spell, and can be used for hoarding pennies as well.” And then there were the packages themselves: fancy boxes that would serve for jewelry or a picture frame when the candy was done; musical drums for pounding or, for the young ladies, drum-shaped pocketbooks filled with candy; and decorated glass tumblers featuring bunnies and sports themes. A precursor to Pez might be the “Clicker Bird”: a metal bird with a long neck and moveable head filled with candy. An extra notable feature was the built-in clicker: “Children love them, and the clickers are guaranteed to drive mothers to distraction.”

    Candy filled toys were common and popular in the mid 1950s; if you wanted to sell in the children’s market, you needed a novelty, an extra, something to stand out and add to the candy itself. The Pez dispensers were part of a wave of innovation in children’s candy packaging. You’ll still find many novelty toy packages in the children’s candy rack at the drug store today. But Pez does stand out, as an idea that allowed for infinite variation in the same familiar package, appealing to new generations of children while gripping the adult imagination as well.

    Sources: Margalit Fox, “Curtis Allina Dies at 87; He Put the Heads on Pez”, New York Times 5 January 2010; B.G. Collins, “Let’s Sell Candy to the Children,” Confectioners Journal June 1947, p. 35-36; Ann Marie Lawler, “Candy Packaging for the Small Fry,” Confectioners Journal May 1952, p. 25-26.

    Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ionan/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

    January 8, 2010 at 7:21 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

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