Many of us who write historical western romance have the occasional scene that takes place in a mercantile or general store. I myself often have a character buy some candy for either themselves or children. But what was that candy like? I mention licorice whips and peppermint sticks in my stories, but what else did they have back in the day? Well, here’s a little history of some of the things we’ve come to love.
Sometime in 1847, a gentleman by the name of Oliver Chase invented the machine for cutting lozenges and the famous Necco Wafer was born. The first branded chewing gum came along (made from tree sap) the following year. Down the road in 1854 Whitman’s chocolates joined the candy crowd. How many of you still buy them today? I occasionally get the itty bitty box at my local drug store. And for those of you into chocolate-covered liquid centered cherries, (yum!) they were invented in 1864 by Cella’s Cherries. Of course, we can’t forget about Richard and George Cadbury. Where would the Cadbury bunny be without them? But before Cadbury bunnies, they were best known for making the first box of Valentine’s chocolates back in 1868. Go, team Cadbury!
Fast forward to 1879 when William H. Thompson comes up with Thompson Chocolate. Okay, so another chocolatier. But he also stated his goal “to make only quality products” and set a new standard.
Then along came candy corn in 1880. Invented by the Wunderle Candy Company, it’s still a best-selling Halloween candy, and will probably still be around for years to come!
Other candy companies began to crop up. Reed’s Candy came along and set up business in Chicago. They invented a yummy butterscotch candy that became known as Reed’s Rolls. Then in 1890, The Piedmont Candy Company was started in Lexington Kentucky. Their claim to fame was Red Bird Peppermint Puffs. Following this came Claus Doscher in 1891. He ventured to France, tried the taffy, then came back to America and offers up French Chews.
And the confection list continues! Quaker City Confectionery Company brought us Good & Plenty candy in 1893. They are the oldest branded retro candy still being sold today. Wow! And of course, we can’t forget Mr. Milton Hershey. He moseyed over to the World’s Columbian Exposition, watched chocolate being made, and thought, hey, I can do that! It wasn’t until 1894 that he came up with the first American candy bar. What he’s best known for, however, wasn’t invented until 1895. The Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar.
Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and Spearmint chewing gum also came out of the 1890s along with Thomas Richardson’s pastel mints and Leo Hirsch Field’s Tootsie Rolls.
What’s your favorite old-time candy? Is there one you haven’t seen for a long while and wish they’d bring it back?