There are centuries of folkloric traditions behind the story of Halloween. But if you wanted to know about that stuff, you'd be watching The History Channel. You're here for the candy, right? Some venerable American treats have interesting back stories of their own. Here are a few for you to chew on.
The appealingly saggy shape of the popular movie treat was a bug, not a feature. The original manufacturer, the Hoffman Company of Chicago, was trying to make perfectly round chocolate-covered caramels. Candy technology in the 1920s wasn't up to the task, but the makers decided to sell the "duds" anyway and a new brand name was born. Famous Chicago restaurant Lou Mitchell's took up the cause of the Dud early on and to this day, hands out free candies to women and children.
Don't you hate it when your jelly candies sweat? Well, you would have if you were a pioneering confectioner. In 1921, candy maker Fred Amend solved the sweaty jelly issue with his own formula, and Chuckles were born. Originally sold in a hand-rolled strip, the five-cent, five-flavor package of chewy jellies were advertised as the "Best candy buy in town." Chuckles got a higher profile in the 1970s as a major sponsor of daredevil Evel Knievel, who attempted to leap the Snake River canyon in a "Sky-Cycle" emblazoned with the candy's logo.
Introduced in the 1920s by the Cardinet Candy Company of Alameda, California, the taffy-and-peanut butter Abba Zaba has attracted an alternative West Coast following. Psychedelic music legend Captain Beefheart wrote a song to the candy, and based the back cover of his 1967 album Safe As Milk on the distinctive black and yellow checkerboard design of the Abba Zaba wrapper.
The Chase Candy Company of St. Joseph, Missouri introduced its signature chocolate-covered peanut and maraschino cherry candy in 1918. While today the company concentrates most of its efforts on dominating that crucial cherry candy niche, once upon a time Chase was a big player in the Midwestern confectionery scene, introducing hundreds of products in the first half of the 20th century. The Cherry Mash is the winner of a process of sugary natural selection that saw the extinction of Chase products like Candy Dogs, the Opera Stick, Mammy's Pride, Nutrol, and the Mint Barber Pole.
Despite its name, the bright orange peanut and coconut log from Lufkin, Texas is completely chicken-free. The Atkinson Candy Company hasn't always played down the poultry associations, though. The candy's original wrapper featured a cowboy hat-wearing chicken mascot. When the company first started making the product in the late 1930s, such chewy stick candies were known in Texas as "chicken bones." Going national in 1954, they discovered another company already owned the Chicken Bones name, and settled for a more subtly chicken-y handle. The Atkinson Company has experimented with various flavored sticks over the years, but they've always stayed away from chocolate, for practical, climate-related reasons.
Dum Dum Pops, made by the Akron Candy Company since 1924, always include a "mystery flavor" in each bag-usually a hybrid of two of their regular flavors. This is a clever way of making a virtue out of necessity. The production lines that make the candy run continuously, so when they switch from one flavor to another, a batch comes out mixed.
Goo Goo Clusters
Created in 1912, this Southern sugar bomb was originally a real breakthrough in chocolate history: the world's first "combination candy bar." The Standard Candy Company mixed peanuts, marshmallow, caramel, and chocolate into thick mounds, and delivered them to stores by the case. It took the company a few more years to figure out how to wrap the unusual shape. A Nashville hometown favorite, the Cluster has advertised on the Grand Ole Opry radio show since the early 1960s.
The iconic chocolate drop was invented in 1907. The origin of the name is something of a mystery, but the going theory has something to do with the smacking sound made when the chocolate was extruded from the machines. The familiar foil wrapper has been a Kiss feature since the beginning, but for the first fourteen years of its existence, packaging had to be done by hand, one at a time. The requisite machines weren't developed until 1921.
America's favorite potato-shaped candy -- okay, only potato-shaped candy -- has been around since 1918. While there's no actual potato in it, it does contain seaweed. Since the early days, the Boise-based company that makes the chocolate-covered treat has used agar agar, a seaweed derivative, to give the maple-flavored marshmallow filling its distinctive grainy texture. Idaho Candy Company president David Wagers hands out Spuds to trick-or-treaters every Halloween. And, because his wife is a dentist, he includes a toothbrush as well.
Necco Wafers of today are almost identical to the product that first appeared in 1847; all eight flavors, including clove and wintergreen, remain unchanged. Of course, the technology that now produces four billion wafers a year is a lot more sophisticated than the lozenge cutter invented by founder Oliver Chase, and the first candy machine developed in America. The sturdy sweet has made it to some inhospitable spots. In the 1930s, Admiral Byrd took two and a half tons of wafers with him to the South Pole, almost a pound a week for each of his team.
For a candy fan, the big East Coast/West Coast rivalry of the last several decades was not in hip-hop, but in the realm of red licorice. Twizzlers can trace their roots back to a 19th-century New York confectionery firm, but for Californians, everything began when the American Licorice Company set up operations in San Francisco in 1925. Red Vines, the sweeter, brighter-colored Twizzler alternative, appeared in their current form in 1952. Until recently, distribution was limited to Western states.
The lollipop you wear on your finger has its origins in the disco era. The Topps company, of baseball card and Bazooka gum fame, introduced the Ring Pop in 1977, but the sugary gem really came into its own in the age of bling. Madonna, Lindsay Lohan, and Fergie, have all sported it. Most recently, Nick Cannon proposed to Mariah Carey by offering her an engagement Ring Pop. Though Mariah's, unlike the ones you'll find in a store, had a 17-carat diamond hidden inside.
The Sifers family of Kansas started making candy in 1903, but the Prohibition era was responsible for their signature product, the oozy marshmallow-filled Valomilk. Back in those dry days, people took their liquor where they could find it. According to the official story, a Sifers employee one day ruined a batch of marshmallow after too many sips from a bottle of vanilla extract. Company president Harry Sifers liked the runny stuff enough to fill chocolate cups with it. The five-cent Valomilk Dips hit the stands in 1931 and the "flowing center" candies have been a Midwestern favorite ever since.
Novelty teeth and lips made from (sort of) edible wax haven't entirely disappeared from the world. Concord Confections still turns limited quantities each year, but in the early days of the petroleum industry in 1850s, they were a bigger part of the candy scene. While newly-invented kerosene was used to light homes, the by-product, paraffin, was made into candles and chewing gum. In the 1920s, the J.W. Glenn Company of Buffalo had a hit with wintergreen-flavored "horse teeth."
Something of an underdog since its launch by the D. L. Clark company in 1930, the Zagnut has always stood in the shadows beside its more famous older sibling, the Clark Bar. The peanut butter and coconut bar had its dubious moment in the spotlight in the 1982 action comedy 48 Hours, when ticked-off Nick Nolte presents Eddie Murphy with a Zagnut dinner.
Pearson's Nut Goodie
The Minnesotan maple and peanut cluster made its debut in 1912 as the centerpiece of the Pearson brothers' candy line. After a series of corporate takeovers in the 60s and 70s, the candy had pretty much disappeared from the shelves. But in 1985, the Goodie was rescued by a couple of former Pearsons's employees, who bought the brand and brought back original recipe and wrapper.
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