Posts tagged ‘poetry’

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

    Poets and Candymakers: Louis Untermeyer

    Louis UntermeyerCandy has no doubt inspired plenty of poetry. While I can’t think of any particular odes to candy’s beauty, a candy dish surely must have fueled many a fire of poetic stamina. And as it turns out, one of the U.S.’s most beloved and influential poets of the twentieth century was a candy lover too.

    Louis Untermeyer will be known to any college English major as the editor of numerous anthologies of English and American poetry used in classrooms across the country. He was also a poet, essayist, and literary personality in his own right, publishing over 100 books and anthologies.

    Untermeyer lived from 1885 to 1977, nearly a century. Those were the decades when America set its claim to be a “nation of candy eaters,” decades of candy passion on the part of ordinary people, met with incredible variety, creativity, and deliciousness in the candy industry. A poet and a candy enthusiast, he was the perfect choice to write the book on candy at mid-century. In fact, had Untermeyer’s poetic ambitions been less successful, he might have found a career in the candy business:

    Being born with the proverbial sweet tooth, I have always found myself lingering in the vicinity of some candy store or other. … Sweets have always changed my disposition and altered my metabolism for the better. As the sugared flavors trickle past my palate, my heart leaps up, the blood courses with a livelier rhythm and my pulse beats with a happier throb. … I have never outgrown my youthful dream of working as chief sampler in a candy factory. (9)

    Untermeyer’s book is called: A Century of Candymaking, 1847-1947: The Story of the Origin and Growth of the New England Confectionery Company Which Parallels that of the Candy Industry in America. Published in 1947, the volume marked the centenary anniversary of the invention of the first candy making machine in America: the lozenge-cutting machine, invented by Oliver Chase. Chase’s little candy enterprise would eventually grow into the New England Confectionery Company, one of the biggest and most important candy companies of the twentieth century.

    The book was commissioned by the New England Confectionery Company as an official corporate history. The volume includes Untermeyer’s essay, illustrative color plates, a pictorial “trip through the modern factory,” maps of Boston’s historic candy sites and of the global origins of candy ingredients, and a chronology of major candy events from 1847 to 1947. Given the absence of any scholarly or popular history of the candy business in this period, A Century of Candymaking is, all in all, a quite useful little book.

    It was not entirely Untermeyer’s work. Historian Marion F.Lansing did all the research and collecting, as Untermeyer acknowledges. But Untermeyer wrote the text. His unique voice and his boyish love of candy bring the stories of American candy heroes to life. There are such notables as Oliver Chase, of the famous lozenge machine; Daniel Fobes, who patented “mocha” in 1867; and Abner Moody, who used his whittling skills to carve fantastical novelty candy molds in the 1870s.

    The best of the writing is a Valentine to the candy itself: Gibralters and Pralines and motto wafers and the boggling “array of color, perfection of shape and variety of flavors” that fascinated at the candy shop. Untermeyer indulges his nostalgia for the good old days when he would run to the candy shop, nickel in hand, and while away the afternoon imagining the possibilities. Candy shops, and candies, alas long gone. We’re fortunate to have A Century of Candymaking to show us what’s been lost.

    September 21, 2009 at 6:50 am 2 comments

    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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