Posts tagged ‘lollipop’

A Sucker? or a SCOUT Sucker?

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.

July 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

Lollipops from the Dentist

I went to the dentist yesterday. School is out for break, so there were kids there too. Kids with lollipops. Lollipops which they appeared to have been given by none other than the dentist.

What? For at least one hundred years, dentists have been hammering the point: candy causes cavities!

So here’s a dentist giving out a lollipop as a reward for enduring the visit. And I’m thinking, wow, this dentist is really out there. But then I took a closer look.

The lollipop was “Dr. John’s Xylitol Lollipop.” Xylitol, in case you haven’t heard, is a sugar alcohol that diminishes the effects of the bad bacteria in your mouth that lead to cavities. So in theory, the xylitol lollipop would not promote tooth decay. Dentist friendly candy! And Dr. John’s website, although it doesn’t actually say it, is obviously inviting that idea: the logo for Dr. John includes a dental mirror.

So the lollipop that kiddies get at the store is BAD. And the lollipop that comes from the dentist is GOOD. But for a kid, isn’t a lollipop a lollipop? Mixed messages, people.

And what does it mean to say only doctors can give us candy? I’m looking around and seeing gummy vitamins, gummy fiber supplements, gummy Omega-3s, this xylitol candy (which, by the way, for full cavity fighting effect, needs to be consumed  several times a day). You or your child could spend the whole day eating gummy bears and sucking lollipops, and say “but it’s not candy!” You know what? It is.

Of course, the truth is that it’s not the candy that causes cavities. It’s bacteria that feed on carbohydrates (including, but not only, sugars) that stick to your teeth. Those could come from candy, of course, but they could come from pasta, or bread, or potato chips. And just because you eat candy doesn’t mean the sugars will stick to your teeth, or that the levels of bacteria in your mouth will lead to decay.

Notice how no one ever says “bread causes cavities”? Because in our cultural lexicon of foods, bread is good, the staff of life. How could it possibly be harmful? On the other hand, “don’t eat candy” is a simple message, one that fits with our cultural suspicion of candy as pleasure for the sake of pleasure. But the big picture is a lot more complicated.

And one other thing: xylitol, like mannitol and other sugar alcohols, can have side effects. The folks at http://www.yourdentistryguide.com/xylitol/ explain:

Taking more than the recommended six to eight grams for oral care may cause stomach discomfort; taking more than 40 grams a day as a sweetener might cause some people to initially experience diarrhea, but this typically subsides with continued use.

Well, if its only a little diarrhea, I guess it’s ok.

And now it’s only fair to give you a warning: Candy Professor Soapbox ahead…

Here’s what I think. Hiding candy under a medical disguise just confuses the issue. Food should be food, medicine should be medicine, candy should be candy. When we make our medicine into candy, and deny ourselves candy for its own pleasures, what have we become?

Dr. John’s Xylitol Lollipops: this is where I would put the link, but I don’t think I will. You can find them yourself if you’re looking.

March 26, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments


Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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