Archive for the ‘American History & Candy’ Category

The True Story of Beemans – Pig Guts and Pepsin

Posted on:

This popular Beeman’s gum was invented in the late 1800s by Dr. Edward E. Beeman, an Ohio-based physician and researcher, who discovered that pepsin, derived from the stomach of hogs, could aid digestion. He begin selling pepsin powder, but sales were not what he’d hoped. So, Nellie Horton, his bookkeeper or local shopkeeper, depending on who you ask, suggested that he make a delicious tasting pepsin chewing gum to increase sales. Beeman made the gum. It tasted good, was individually wrapped, but sales were lackluster. And why? Beeman was a doctor, not a marketer, and called his company the unappealing…

Read More »

The Return of Black Jack, Clove and Beeman’s Gum – But Returned from Where?

Posted on:

The iconic Black Jack, Clove and Beeman’s Gum have gone in and out of fashion for years. They left the market in 1978, returned in 1985 and, just a few years back, vanished again. And now – they’re back! Again! This much hailed return begs the question ‘where did they begin in the first place?’ The answer to that question requires a timeline of sorts which goes back to the origin of commercial chewing gum, which is unexpectedly recent. Throughout History: People everywhere have chewed tree resin to clean their teeth, heal gum and tooth problems, and ease other bodily…

Read More »

The Candy Cane – Details Revealed

Posted on:

A few weeks ago, I posted that History.com interviewed me via a number of written questions.The editor said I could share the full Candy Cane Q&A once the article, with my quotes, was released. She also said I need to give them credit…which, as you can imagine, is a pleasure. So…here it is… What do you know about the origins of the candy cane?  The first candy cane most likely took shape in 17th century Europe when people were enjoying pulled sugars, the parent to today’s candy sticks. At that time, somewhere in Germany, an unknown person added a hook…

Read More »

Happy Birthday Robert Johnson!

Posted on:

Today is the birthday of Robert Johnson – the remarkable and legendary blues musician – born in 1911. The influence of just about any cultural effort affects so much in our culture, and Johnson’s influence on our cultural history and American music is profound.  We even see his influence in the candy universe in such items as the Hot Tamale candy, which runs from ancient Aztec women to Mexican immigrants working in agriculture to enslaved workers in the Delta to Robert Johnson to a Jewish immigrant in Pennsylvania to the Peeps candy and, at last, to the Hot Tamale candy…

Read More »

The Dumb in Dum Dum

Posted on:

I recently visited Cracker Barrel – a regular event for me, as the food chain has the broadest assortment of old time candy anywhere. Their offerings are a window into what’s next: they’re the first to get new old-time candies; they know what sells and doesn’t, creating a road map for other candy-seller’s decisions; and their cluttered, bountiful lay-out can be an inspiration to us all. But, what I saw this trip was less inspirational and more disturbing. Cracker Barrel has gone mega. The company has cut back on ordinary candy that can fit in your fist, featuring instead candy…

Read More »

The Blues, Robert Johnson and the Hot Tamale Connection

Posted on:

The history of the blues, Robert Johnson, and the tamale are fascinating and interlocked. Let’s start with the blues – a uniquely American form of music that reflects personal longing and historic strife. The roots of the blues began in the Mississippi Delta – an area that extends from Vicksburg Mississippi to Memphis Tennessee. There, on cotton plantations, enslaved laborers struggled under dire conditions, unfathomable to most Americans today. One of their resources for survival were a confluence of songs rooted in their Western Africa cultures that they sung in the fields in unified voices, call-and-response interactions, and individual hollers….

Read More »

Grandma’s Hard Candy: More than a Sweet Treat

Posted on:

Candy serves many purposes – a reward, pick-me-up, breath-freshener, and symbol such as the candy cane and Easter chocolate eggs. But none is so embedded with meaning on an everyday level as the hard candies that grandmothers’ kept in their candy bowls at home or their purses, dispensing them to children and, above all, grandchildren. No mere treat, these candies were loaded with meaning that rose from the World Wars and Great Depression. At those difficult times, sugar was in short supply – during war they went straight to the soldiers and in economic crises they were too expensive to…

Read More »

Betty Boop

Posted on:

Betty Boop: The International Sensation The animated Betty Boop began life in 1932 as a flapper, a relic of the gay ‘20s when women did as they pleased from the kitchen to the Speakeasy. Gradually Betty became more proper, due to the Hays Code, which restricted unseemly content in movies. Getcha Candy Here! The ‘30s were a bad time for the nation but movies were a great escape. And to sweeten the occasion, movie theaters started adding candies in the increasingly popular concession stands.  Among the leading sweets were Jujubes, Milk Duds, chocolate covered raisins and malted milk balls. The…

Read More »

Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 3

Posted on:

The Author’s Illuminating (for her) Experience I recently had an experience in my hometown of Shepherdstown, WV. It was about racism, not against African Americans but Muslims, and it did not directly involve me. Still, I felt strongly about it and got involved. The situation, which is still ongoing, gave me new insight into how Mrs. Spencer and, dare I say, the escaped slaves, felt. Here’s how it started: I found, among other things, an anti-Muslim meme on the Facebook page of the town’s police chief, who is also a star in the hit show Ghosts of Shepherdstown which reaches…

Read More »

Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 2

Posted on:

Resisters Under the Seat It’s hard to know where the enslaved people in Mrs. Spencer’s buggy started. Slaves labored at the ports of Salem and many other nearby places in the 18th and 19th centuries. Likely, they didn’t come from the South, as freedom was too far for escape. Regardless, they traveled on inconspicuous roads and paths, with little food, drink, or chance to rest. The escaped slaves fled for many reasons, among them the harsh reprisals of slaveholders; starvation and brutality where they worked; and the need to seek out family members who were sold away from them. How…

Read More »

Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 1

Posted on:

Mrs. Spencer: The Nation’s First Candy Store and Abolitionist The fascinating and revealing story of the nation’s first candy begins in 1800 when Mrs. Mary Spencer and her son Thomas were shipwrecked in Salem, Massachusetts, after sailing over from England. As you can imagine, Mary Spencer was destitute, having lost everything she owned in the wreck. The town’s women felt bad for her, and learning she was an excellent cook, raised money to buy her a barrel of sugar.  Cane sugar was expensive at that time, and women didn’t have the means to make money. It’s likely they had to…

Read More »

Candy in the Classroom?

Posted on:

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the D.G. Cooley Elementary School in Berryville, Virginia, about the history of candy with plenty of samples as we went. Skeptics, such as health professionals or parents who fastidiously limit their children’s intake of sugar, may cringe. Candy? In the classroom? Seriously? No worries – I’m on their side. But first, a little background. Candy is uniquely qualified for teaching children. They can relate to it directly – it’s not abstract, difficult, or about grown-up achievements. It’s about something in their realm and so, about them, complete with positive associations of candy bags at…

Read More »

Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube