In my story Tumbleweeds and Valentines for the anthology Hearts and Spurs from Prairie Rose Publications, I wanted my sassy, Texan heroine to have an enjoyable job. How much more fun could a lady in the late 1800’s have than to own a confectionary store?
I almost didn’t write this blog on candy because I thought … “Wow, it’s a long time to Valentine’s Day!” Then I thought, “But we have candy from Halloween through Valentines.”
What kind of candy would my heroine have in her store? We know the type that would be in a mercantile. Penny candy. Licorice, gumdrops, and later lollypops. Penny candy became the first material thing many children spent their own money on. For this reason candy store owners relied almost entirely on the business of children to keep them running. But, for my heroine what could she have that was really special for a cowboy to buy his sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? Research time knocked on my door. So, here are some interesting facts I found.
It has been reported that the fascination with candy, particularly chocolate, first occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus returned home from his fourth voyage of the “Americas.” Although he was not personally partial to the bittersweet treat, his benefactors in Spain found it fascinating, and five centuries later the love of chocolate continues stronger than ever.
Before sugar was readily available, candy was made from honey. Honey was used as far back as the Roman Empire to coat fruits and flowers to preserve them or to create forms of candy.
Candy originally was a medicine, either used to calm the digestive system or cool a sore throat. In the Middle Ages it appeared on the tables of only the wealthy. At that time, candy began as a combination of spices and sugar that was used as an aid to digestive problems, which were common due to the constant consumption of food that was neither fresh nor well balanced. Banquet hosts typically served these type of “candies” at banquets for their guests. One in particular was referred to as a “chamber spice” and made with cloves, ginger, aniseed, juniper berries, almonds and pine kernels dipped in melted sugar.
The first candy came to America in the early 1700’s from Britain and France. Only a few of the early colonists were proficient in sugar work and were able to provide the treats for only the very wealthy.
Prior to the 1900’s candy was commonly sold unwrapped from street vendors, where it was exposed to dirt and insects. By 1914 there were some machines to wrap gum and stick candies, but this was not the common practice. After the polio outbreak in 1916, unwrapped treats garnered widespread censure because of the dirt and germs. At the time, only upscale candy stores used glass jars. With advancements in technology wax paper was adopted, and foil and cellophane were imported from France by DuPont in 1925. Necco packagers were one of the first companies to package their wafers without human touch.
Hard candy may be indefinitely stored, while milk chocolate and caramels might stale after a year. But my favorite, and one that purports to have health benefits, dark chocolate can last up to two years.
Just a couple of interesting tidbits:
1848: The first branded chewing gum, made from tree sap, was The State of Maine Spruce Gum, followed by William Wrigley, Jr.’s Juicy Fruit and Spearmint gum in 1893.
1854: Whitman’s Chocolates became available.
1868: Richard Cadbury made the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates, starting the tradition that continues today. Conversation Hearts arrived on the scene around 1902.
1896: “Tootsie Rolls” came along by Leo Hirshfield, a New York confectioner, who named the candy after his daughter’s nickname, “Tootsie”.
1900: Milton Hershey introduced the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. The famous Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses appeared in 1906.
Although I’ve mentioned many of my favorite candies, the one that I grew up with and probably loved more than any are the Valomilk Candy, originally known as dips, which was accidentally invented in 1931. I loved those yummy chocolate covered marshmallow treats. But, my fondest memories go back to my grandfather who kept Hershey Kisses just for the grandkids.
I could go on forever about famous candies, but I’d love to know what your favorite is and why?
To the first person giving me the name of the most popular candy in the United States, I will give you an eCopy of Tycoon and the Texan or Wishing for a Cowboy.
Watch for Wishing for a Cowboy due out November 1st.
We are thrilled that Kensington released the award-winning anthology with Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, DeWanna Pace, Jodi Thomas and yours truly A Texas Christmas again for this holiday season. It’s available at a special price at Walmart Stores and Sam’s Clubs throughout the nation, plus at your favorite bookstore. If you are an eBook lover, you can get it from Amazon.com and BN.com.