Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Satisfying a Sweet Tooth

by Shanna Hatfield

I often include candy in the stories I write partly because it’s fun to research the history and partly because I have such a sweet tooth, I pass that malady along to some of my characters.

We’ve probably all read stories that include someone in an old West setting enjoying a peppermint, lemon drop, candy stick, chewing gum, or perhaps a licorice whip.

Today, I’d thought it might be fun to highlight a few other vintage candies...

Jelly beans
Legend has it that jelly beans are a combination of the soft Middle Eastern treat called Turkish Delight (around for thousands of years) and the hard candy shell of Jordan Almonds (popular since the 17th century). The earliest recorded reference to jelly beans is from Boston candy maker William Schrafft. He urged people to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Jelly beans became wide-spread in America by the turn of the century and sold with other penny candies. It wasn’t until the 1930s that jelly beans became firmly entrenched as a must-have for Easter.

Although the origin of the gumdrop remains a mystery, the term first appeared in print in 1860. The candy was described as a soft gelatin-based candy that stretched like rubber when pulled. Some manufacturers also used a potato-based less stretchy method of producing the sweet at a lower cost. The candy became quite popular at the end of the 19th century. Ohio candy manufacturer Percy Truesdell is credited with developing the modern gumdrop in 1915.

NECCO Wafers
During my years growing up on a farm, I can’t think of a time when my dad didn’t have a roll of these candies around. He most often kept a handful of them in his shirt pocket, but they could be found in his pickup, the tractors, and sometimes even a stash of them in the shop. This was possible thanks to a young English immigrant by the name of Oliver Chase who invented the first American candy cutting machine in 1847- for lozenges. He and his brother Silas Edwin founded Chase and Co., which became the pioneer member of the New England Confectionary Company family. NECCO wafers were originally formulated to give Union solders a burst of energy during the American Civil War. They reportedly worked so well, they were still included in military rations during World War II. The classic product contained 40 wafers in a roll with eight original flavors: lemon, lime, orange, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, wintergreen, and clove.

Whitman Sampler
Stephen F. Whitman, a 19-year-old Quaker, set up a small "confectionery and fruiterer shoppe" near the Philadelphia waterfront in 1842. He included exotic ingredients brought to him by well-traveled sailors and his candies quickly gained renown across the Northeast. Aware that presentation could be as important to selling his chocolates as the taste, he created beautiful packaging and advertised his sweets. Whitman’s Chocolates became a familiar name through advertisements in newspapers and magazines as early as 1857. His business thrived and expanded. In 1869, Horace Whitman replaced his father as president of the company. He introduced America to cellophane packaging - an astounding material that kept candy fresh, colorful, and clean. By 1907, “better” drug stores carried the boxes of candy on their shelves. In 1911, Walter Sharp took over as president and developed the Whitman's Sampler®, an assortment of the company's best-selling chocolates. Inspired by a cross-stitched sampler hanging in his home, Sharp worked with an employee to create the sampler that's reproduced on Sampler boxes to this day. By 1915, the Sampler had become America's best-selling box of chocolates.

Candy Corn
George Renninger, a candymaker at the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia, invented the revolutionary tri-color candy in the 1880s. The Goelitz Confectionery Company brought the candy to the masses at the turn of the century. 

Hershey’s Chocolates
Candy manufacturer Milton Hershey made the decision to try adding chocolate coating to his caramels in 1894. Calling this new enterprise the Hershey Chocolate Company, the company began producing milk chocolate in bars, wafers and other shapes in 1900. With mass production, Hershey was able to lower the per-unit cost and make milk chocolate, once a luxury item for the wealthy, affordable to all. In 1907, the company produced a flat-bottomed, conical milk chocolate candy that Mr. Hershey named Hershey’s Kisses Chocolates. At first, they were individually wrapped in little squares of silver foil, but in 1921 machine wrapping took over that job. Hershey provided milk chocolate bars to American doughboys in the first war. By the end of World War II, more than a billion Ration D bars had been produced and the company had earned no less than five Army-Navy “E” Production Awards for its exceptional contributions to the war effort. In fact, the company’s machine shop even turned out parts for the Navy’s antiaircraft guns.

Tootsie Rolls
In 1896, Leo Hirschfield invented the Tootsie Roll and named it for his daughter, Tootsie. His new hand-rolled candy sold for one penny. By 1905, the candy production moved to a four-story New York City candy manufacturing plant and deliveries were made by horse and buggy.

 The beginnings of lollipops go all the way back to the stone age when sticks were inserted into hives and the honey was eaten from the sticks. Fast forward to the 17th century when sugar became more plentiful. The English enjoyed boiled sugar candy treats, inserted on sticks to make it easier to eat. The word lollipop first appeared in print in 1784, referring to a sweet in general, not specifically candy on a stick. Even Charles Dickens included the term in his writings. Reportedly, the term  “lolly pop” literally means “tongue slap.” The word for “tongue” is “lolly” in Northern England and “pop” means “slap.” It is thought London street vendors coined this term as they peddled the treat. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, supposedly the ends of pencils were dipped in candy for children to enjoy while they wrote. (It wasn't until 1858 that pencils were manufactured with erasers on the end). Around the turn of the century, the Bradley Smith Company, the McAviney Candy Company, and the Racine Confectionary Machine Company were all manufacturing candy on sticks. It wasn’t until 1931 when the Bradley Smith Company patented the name “lollipop” for their version of candy on a stick.

In my new release, Lacy, (Pendleton Petticoats, Book 5) Lacy Williams has never had much opportunity to enjoy candy. Grant Hill decides to give her a sampling of the variety of sweets available. 

Here's a little excerpt from their story:

“Do you really not enjoy candy?” He opened the box of chocolates and held it out to her.
“I never said that.” Lacy accepted a piece and took a small bite, savoring the creamy, smooth confection. “It’s just that I’ve never had much candy.”
“That’s because you were too busy eating ancient blood-sucking fish and venomous reptiles.”
Lacy frowned at him as she finished the bite of candy in her mouth. “When you say it like that, it sounds positively horrendous. As I mentioned at the store, Father most often purchased NECCO wafers, so we could each have one. Once in a great while, we might get a lemon drop or a peppermint from a visitor. Tony brought Grandmother a box of chocolates once. It was divine.”
“Personally, I much prefer chocolates or even licorice whips to snakes and rodents.” Grant hid a sarcastic smile by studying the candy in the box he still held. After selecting a piece, he held it out to Lacy. “Here, try this one. It’s my favorite.”
She started to take it from his hand, but he refused to relinquish it, holding it up to her lips. “Take a bite.”
After she did, he popped the remainder into his mouth and gave her a roguish grin. “That’s the sweetest it’s ever tasted.”
Pink suffused her cheeks at his comment and the heated look he gave her. “For an upstanding citizen and respected banker in this town, I think you could be quite scandalous, given the opportunity.”
Grant winked at her and popped a peppermint into his mouth. “Only with the right girl. I wouldn’t scandalize just anyone, you know.”

  What's your favorite type of candy (vintage or otherwise)?

A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a bestselling author of sweet romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

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Ginger Jones Simpson said...

Great blog, but so much for the diet. I have an incredible urge for something sweet right now. Wonder why?

Shanna Hatfield said...

Sorry, Ginger! I had a horrible sweet craving by the time I finished writing the blog! :)

Melanie said...

What a great blog post! I'm a huge candy fan myself - especially if it's anything that is fruit-flavored.

NECCO wafers have a lot of personal meaning for me. My dad always loved them. He could make a roll of NECCO wafers last hours because he would suck on each wafer until it dissolved completely. I'm afraid I was more of a cruncher myself. LOL

When he got sick and was in the hospital a lot, I lived in a different state. I would call the hospital gift shop and have them send over a roll of Life Savers as well as a roll of NECCO wafers.

My dad passed away in November 2011, just 12 days after his 64th birthday. Every year on his birthday, I buy a package of NECCO wafers and eat them throughout the day. It makes me feel closer to him. I think they'll always remind me of him and I like that :-)

By the way, I can still crunch those wafers with the best of them! lol

Shanna Hatfield said...

Oh, Melanie! So sorry about losing your dad, but what great memories you have of him. My dad is a big Necco fan, too. I think if him any time I see the candy. And I can crunch 'em too! So glad you have those memories to cherish. :)