Wednesday, July 4, 2018

SWEET HISTORY - PART 1 By Cheri Kay Clifton

First of all, on this, the 242nd year of our country's Independence,  I want to wish all our patriotic Sweethearts, families & friends a very Happy 4th of July!

Although our characters, settings and plots may be fictional, our historical western stories should remain true to important facts in order to make them believable for our readers. Thus, when we authors do research, obviously we check for significant dates of major events, inventions, the founding of states, cities and towns and the famous and infamous who inhabited them. But we also put emphasis in making sure the small things in our stories remain factual as well.

Where am I going with this … well, in my previous book as well as the one I’m writing now, one of the characters is eating candy. But what kind of candy was available then?  Could he eat a Hershey’s chocolate bar? How about a Tootsie Roll? A bag of candy corn? What about chewing gum? Hence, my post on the American candy industry from the 1800’s forward.

Even though the history of candy-making dates back thousands of years, as major advances in candy production developed, it became a major industry. Penny candy in American could be easily produced and sold by the pound, from glass jars in drugstores and general stores. As sugar prices decreased, both home based candy makers and candy factories refined their skills with candy brittles, taffy, caramels and simple hard candies.

However, it wasn’t until the latter 1800’s that candy making became even more popular with the addition of an ingredient called chocolate. Before this time, powdered chocolate was primarily used to create hot chocolate as a drink. Chocolate became more popular with advances made to offer chocolate as a solid, not just a powder. The ingredient could be molded into a bar, used as a flavoring, as well as a coating. Milton Hershey was the first American to bring the chocolate bar into mass production with machinery he purchased from a German company.

Out of the hundreds of sweets that could be listed, below is a timeline of some of the favorites I recognize. Many retro candies and their founding companies have come and gone. However, a large percentage of American candies have been around for more than a hundred years.

Hope you enjoy the journey through Sweet History

1847 Oliver Chase invents a machine for cutting lozenges, which were made into flavored candy wafers. Not until 1901 was NECCO Wafers introduced by the company it was named after — New England Confectionery Company.

1848 John Curtis produces the first branded chewing gum, made from tree sap, called The State of Maine Spruce Gum.

1854 The first packaged box of Whitman's Chocolate is produced.

1868 Richard Cadbury makes the first Valentine's Day box of chocolates, a tradition that continues today.

1880s Wunderie Candy Company creates candy corn, which remains a best-selling Halloween candy.

1893 Quaker City Confectionery Company, located outside Philadelphia, introduces Good & Plenty which becomes the oldest retro candy still in production.

1893 Milton Hershey attends the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago and watches chocolate being manufactured. Impressed, he purchases the German equipment for his factory in Pennsylvania.

1893 William Wrigley, Jr. introduces Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum and Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum

1894 Milton Hershey creates what is known as the first “American” candy bar, although his famous Milk Chocolate Bar won’t be invented for a few more years.

1896 Leo Hirshfield, New York confectioner, introduces Tootsie Rolls, named after his daughter’s nickname, Tootsie.

1900 Milton Hershey introduces a variation of what will become the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.

1900 Clark Gum Company introduces Teaberry Gum.
1901 Multicolored candy disks called NECCO Wafers first appear.

1902 New England Confectionery Company makes the first Conversation Hearts which remains a thriving Valentine’s tradition.

1904 Emil Brach starts Brach’s Candy.

1906 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses appear in the famed silver foil wrapping. The town of Derry Church changes its name to Hershey. The first name for the popular candy was called Silvertops.

1906 The American Chicle Company, founded by Thomas Adams, introduces Chiclets, the candy-coated gum that uses chicle (derived from the sweet sap of a tropical tree and means chewing gum in Spanish) inside.

1911 Ethel and Frank Mars open a candy company in Tacoma, Washington. The company, later Mars, Inc., would become one of the largest, privately owned candy companies in the entire world.

1912 Life Savers, reportedly named because of their resemblance to life preservers, are introduced in peppermint flavor. The five-flavor roll isn’t marketed for another 22 years.

1912 The Whitman's Sampler box of chocolates debuts and is the first box of chocolates to include an index for chocolate lovers to pick exactly which piece they want to eat.

1913 Goo Goo Clusters is introduced, the first candy bar to combine milk chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts.

1914 The Heath Bar is introduced by L.S. Heath & Sons.

1914 Mary Janes, a peanut-butter and molasses flavored taffy-type candies are created by Charles N. Miller in Boston, MA.

1916 George DeMet introduces the Turtle, a chocolate covered caramel and nut candy that resemblances a real turtle.  

I will continue with Part 2 of Sweet History next month. In the meantime, satisfy that sweet tooth and stay tuned!


  1. Cheryl, what a clever topic! Now I want candy. LOL My daughter's nickname for me is Mary Jane because when I was a child I told people that was my name. My daughter gives me Mary Janes sometimes and I have the little girl figurine of Mary Jane.

  2. Sorry, Cheri, I meant to type your name and had a brain malfunction. Probably thinking too much about that candy. LOL

    1. Our town has a store that sells "retro candy" and can buy Mary Janes - love them! Also I found several stores on line that sell old time candies. As for you calling me Cheryl ... guess what ... my name is Cheryl, but nicknamed Cheri as a young girl and it stuck!

  3. Cheri,
    Teaberry Gum made me think of the old Teaberry commercials. *grin* Here is an example.

    1. I saw the Teaberry Shuffle on you tube - too funny! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Cheri, thank you for the trip down 'candy lane'. Wow. Doris

  5. What a "sweet" post, Cheri. It certainly is good to get the timeline on all things in our stories. Imagine putting Skittles of Reece's Pieces in a frontier story. I can hear the snap of that book closing as soon as the reader discovered the glaring error. Nothing seems to take a reader out of a story faster than a historical faux Pas by the writer.

    I am thinking how happy women must have been in 1912 when Whitman's Samplers came out. LOL

    All the best to you, Cheri...

    1. Don't know about you, but I have actually given up on a couple historical authors who wrote flagrant faux pas. These days, there's no excuse, since it's so easy to check on the Internet. I will say, though, good research requires double checking sometimes, since we can't believe everything we read on the Internet!

  6. Who knew?! So many favorite candies were so old and so delightful! Thanks, Cheri

    1. Thank you, Arletta, for stopping by. I'll be writing more about "retro candy" next month.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.