Archive for the ‘retro candy’ Category

The Remarkable Life and Times of the Jelly Bean

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The story of the  jelly bean is remarkable, spanning cultures and centuries, involving sultans and ancient apothecaries, wars and great literary figures. It began around 226-652 CE in the Persian Empire where the ruling power, the Sasanids, enjoyed a sweet called “abhisa” made of honey, fruit syrups, and starch.  By the 9th century, it appeared in the Arab apothecaries as a remedy for sore throats called “rahat ul-hulküm,” later shortened to “lokum,” meaning “throats ease” which many still use today. The sweet had a more or less humble life until the 1750’s when Sultan Abdul Hamid I fell in love…

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Retro Candy You May Have Missed

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The universe of “retro” candy is a large one, spanning over 150+ years – Wax Lips (early 1900s), Good n’ Plenty (1893), NECCO Wafers (1847) and such sensations as Fruit Slice Gum (1960s) and Turkish Taffy (around 1931)… to name a few. But wedged into this clutter of wrappers, flavors and advertising stints are candies long forgotten but still among us – alive, well, and ever fascinating. Here is a sample of some of them: Cherry Cocktail (1926). Still made by the family-owned Idaho Spud Candy Company which opened in 1901. The candy bar is not your everyday cherry cordial,…

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The True Story of Beemans – Pig Guts and Pepsin

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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…

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Happy Birthday Robert Johnson!

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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…

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The Dumb in Dum Dum

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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…

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Charlie Chaplin and a Favorite Retro Candy

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What is the connection between iconic silent screen actor Charlie Chaplin and a favorite retro candy? The year was 1925 and Charlie Chaplin was making a movie that would later be renowned as a silent movie classic. The film was called “The Gold Rush” and in it he played a poor, starving gold miner, so starving, in fact, he was forced to eat his boot. This put Chaplin in a bind: he needed an edible boot. What to do? What to do? Chaplin called the American Licorice company who had just settled into their San Francisco home. The company filled…

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Roller Coaster Candy and the Fun Factor

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When you go to an amusement park, you may notice that there are two types of roller coaster riders: one has hands flung in the air, faces broad with animated expressions, plenty of laughter, and plenty of screaming. Fun screaming. The other is white-knuckled, fingers so tightly wrapped around the bars, you’d think they’d make an imprint. Their eyes are closed – rigor mortis seems to have set in. Same is true with candy. When the fun-loving visitors come into the True Treats shop, they are excited about the variety, the color and the stories. When they get to the…

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The First Penny Candies: What’s Missing and Why?

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Penny candy has been a favorite for kids since the burgeoning industrial age of the mid-1800s. They could buy an array of sweets in general stores, tobacco stores, and apothecaries. The Ohio Journal of Education, in an 1857 publication, Lessons in Common Things, listed a few of the selections: Cream candy, popcorn, peppermint, molasses, rose, clove, butterscotch, sugar plums, lemon drops, lemon candy, peppermint drops, French kisses, cinnamon, ice-cream, wintergreen, sour drops, horehound, lavender, gum drops, vanilla, Rock, birch, cats-eyes, and kisses. Look carefully at this list and you’ll notice a difference from lists of today which would more likely…

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The Not Dumb Dum Dum

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The Dum Dums lollipop was first made in 1924 by the Akron Candy Company. According to manufacturer Spangler, who purchased the company in 1953, they produce12 million Dum Dums per day and about 2.4 billion Dum Dums each year. The reason for its success goes back to the 20’s with I.C. Bahr, a company sales manager. At that time, marketing was no longer a tacky sales pitch. It was all about strategy, demographics, and imagination. Marketing had risen to a heyday which, to be frank, has yet to end. Good salesmen knew that the candy’s name could be translated into…

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The Secret Life of the Pixy Stix (Plus Kool-Aid)

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The Pixy Stix, beyond any other candy, is a lesson in “don’t stop ‘til” you get it right. The ubiquitous Pixy Stix sugar-esq powder started out as a drink mix in 1930, along the lines of Kool Aid, made two years earlier. Not to digress, but the guy who made Kool-Aid, Edwin Perkins, actually experimented in his mother’s kitchen. Apparently, the drink started as a liquid. According to the Hastings Museum in Perkin’s home town of Hastings, Nebraska: “One of the products Perkins found success with was Fruit Smack. It came in came in six delicious flavors and the four-ounce bottle…

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The Charleston Chew

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The Charleston Chew, that dense chocolate covered marshmallow-taffy-toffee substance may be nostalgic, but beneath the chocolate exterior, is an edgy, activist DNA embedded in the candy which, as it happened, was named for the song and the dance known as the “Charleston” in 1925. Let’s start with the dance. No one knows where it originated exactly, but it likely was in the domain of enslaved African-Americans living on a small island near Charleston, South Carolina. Their dance likely had Ash-Ante African roots, modified to deceive the slaveholders and their rules prohibiting it. You have to remember that both song and…

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The Almost-Astonishing Story of Chocolate Covered Peppermint Candy: From Ice Cream Cones to a Retro Candy Favorite

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I’ve been thinking about peppermint patties these days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe because peppermint and chocolate, individually or combined, is big on Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day…face it, there’s always a holiday nearby where candy is concerned and chocolate covered peppermints are standard fare. Chocolate Covered Peppermint Candy: The Retro Candy Version Cometh The year was 1940. At that time, chocolate covered caramels, bonbons, and others along that line were old hat: suitors had been giving their intendeds chocolates for decades. But the chocolate covered peppermint languished… the peppermint was soft and gummy and the candy overall substandard….

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