How Sweet it Was! Candy in the 1800’s

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?

Kit Morgan
Kit Morgan is the author of over 80 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!
Updated: January 27, 2020 — 2:43 pm

43 Comments

  1. I loved Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum. I also loved the coconut flavored watermelon slices, the were pink, Brown & white striped. And my favorite was the small bite size Mary Jane’s candy. Thanks for all the sweet info. ?

    1. I used to love Juicy Fruit gum too!

  2. I am so glad chocolate made the scene many, many years ago…it’s pretty hard to beat!

    1. I know! Took awhile to come to America in its different forms. I believe they were utilizing it in creative ways in Europe long before we did!

  3. I love any kind of chocolate. It was interesting to hear the history behind candy.

    1. It was interesting researching it! I ate at a Cracker Barrel recently and bought some old-timey candy, which is what prompted the research.

  4. My favorite old time candy is Good and Plenty. Yummy!

    1. I had no idea they’d been around that long!

  5. I like JuJuBees

    1. I like those too! They’re hard to find.

  6. SinSin – was my Grandmother’s favorite and it has not been made for many, many years!

    1. I’ve not heard of those, Teresa. What are they?

  7. I remember buying squirrels which was penny candy. They were nutty and like a dark caramel on them. I haven’t seen them in years. The past couple of years I haven’t been able to find the Mary Jane peanut butter kisses at Halloween not sure what’s going on there.

    1. Woah, such a neat post!

      1. Thanks, Abigail, it was fun to research!

    2. More and more of it is disappearing. Sigh.

    3. I’ve never heard of those but they sound yummy!

  8. What a nice walk down memory lane in the candy world! As a kid, I liked 5th Avenue chocolate candy bars.

    1. I used to like those too! Saw some at Cracker Barrel last week which is what made me want to write this post. Yummy!!!

  9. Chocolate is always a good choice!

  10. Toosie pops were my favorite.

  11. I used to love those too!

  12. I remember while growing up there was a corner store nearby… I would walk there and get a few of their penny candies… lollipops were more… I was saddened when they went out of business…

  13. I love Hershey’s chocolate still!! I always hated candy corn, but my Daddy loved it!! I loved Sugar Daddy’s, too!!

    1. I used to love Sugar Daddy’s, but love Milked Cows better!

  14. Interesting to see when some of these came out. I used to love Juicy Fruit gum. And chocolate covered cherries, oh my.

  15. Oh yeah, chocolate covered cherries are the bomb!

  16. I used to like the root beer barrels, they were good.

    1. Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten all about those!

  17. I you like Hershey Kisses, then you’d love Wilbur Buds–from 1894. They come in milk and dark chocolate, or you can buy a mix.

    1. I’ve never heard of them before, Denise. I wonder if you can find them here on the west coast.

  18. I liked the Necco Wafers and also those little brown hard candies that were shaped like barrels and tasted like root beer. I have forgotten what we called them.

    1. Someone else just mentioned them, Jackie. She just referred to them as the root beer barrels! But I knew what she was talking about. I used to love those!

  19. Helpful post, Kit. I had no idea some of the candies were that old. I have my characters choose peppermint sticks, licorice, or horehound. Now I can add some new flavors. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome, Caroline! And I had no idea some of it was so old either! Wow!

  20. I miss the Necco Wafers. Good and Plenties are still favorites. They both lend themselves very nicely to sharing.

    1. They certainly do, Patricia!

  21. Such a “sweet” post, Kit! Love it. I always associate Neccos with my dad as he always had them in his pocket when I was a kid. If I happen to come across a roll of them in the store I always buy them for him, knowing it will give him (and me) a smile!

  22. Yeah, you don’t see them around much any more.

  23. Wow! I loved your blog about all the old-time candy. I would like to see the coconut bomb bombs come back. You can’t find them much anymore.

  24. Avatar

    Oh my how this post made me think of my step-grandfather’s old country store that used to sit next door to the home I now live in. My father’s side of the family once had an old country store also that was in a community ten miles from my home. I remember the building for it because it sat for years at the corner of the county road that we turned at to go to my paternal Grandparent’s home in that area where a lot of my uncle’s and cousins homes. I can remember as a little girl walking from my maternal grandparents home to my later step-grandparents store (long story that could make a plot for a novel) and getting a baby bottle of coke and a little brown bag of penny candy for free because we were the children of my step-mom’s high school sweetheart. (I know, swoon, lol) My aunt had always sent us to get her a Neopolitian Coconut Slice candy bar. That is the candy bar I would say from the old time candy’s I miss. Brach’s still makes their version of it but living very rural I never see a Brach’s pay-by-the-pound candy display anymore. The old-fashioned version in the thin slice was better anyway, it was moist whereas the Brach’s version is a thick cube and chewy enough to pull your teeth out. Lol Loved your blog. I had never heard of many of the candies you mentioned.

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