Sweet Starts

The following is an article from the History's Lists book from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Some familiar candy brands have been in production for more than a century, while some others reach back even further. How did these sweet treats get their start? We've got their sugar-coated beginnings right here.


The oldest mass-produced candy brand in the United States, NECCO wafers got their start in 1847 when Oliver Chase, a candy-making English immigrant, went into business selling the wafers with his brother Silas. (Chase also invented the machine the wafers were stamped out on.) Their company became the basis for the New England Confectionery Company, which rebranded the candy as NECCO Wafers around 1910 or 1912.


Adults today might be more familiar with Squirrel Nut Zippers as an eclectic rock band active in the 1990s, but the candies the band took their name from reach back a full century earlier to 1890, when the first of the excessively chewy taffy candies known as Squirrel Nut Chews rolled off the line of the Austin T. Merrill Company in Massachusetts. The "zippers" candy arrived in the 1920s. Since 2004, the candies have been made by NECCO.


The quintessential American chocolate bar got its start in 1900 when Milton Hershey perfected a formula to mass-produce milk chocolate, which until that time had been a confection limited primarily to the upper classes. The bar's widespread success helped Hershey to found what is now the Milton Hershey School, in 1909, which provides education for disadvantaged children.


The famously triangular bar of Swiss chocolate with nougat, almonds, and honey got its shape and name (a combination of the last name of inventor Theodor Tobler and torrone, the Italian word for "nougat") in 1908. Given the image of the Matterhorn on its wrapper,  you may be forgiven for thinking the triangular shape is a tribute to the Alps, but the company website maintains the shape was actually inspired by "a red and cream-frilled line of dancers at the Folies Bergeres in Paris, forming a shapely pyramid at the end of a show."


A regional favorite from Nashville, Tennessee, where it was invented in 1912, this circular candy bar's claim to fame is that it was the first "combination" candy bar -that is, the first made with more than one type of candy (in this case, marshmallow, caramel, and roasted peanuts), all covered in milk chocolate. In the 1930s, the Standard Candy Company advertised the GooGoo Cluster as "a nourishing lunch for a nickel!" -a claim they'd be unlikely to get away with today.


These pocket-sized taffies made from molasses and peanut butter were named for the aunt of Charles N. Miller, who invented the candy in 1914 and inherited the candy company his father had founded in a house originally belonging to Paul Revere. Mary Janes eventually became so popular that the Miller Company stopped making other candies to focus on that brand alone. At the moment, however, the candy is being made by NECCO.


The crispy, peanuty chocolate bar was the signature bar of the D.L. Clark candy company, named for Irish immigrant David Clark, and founded in what is now the north side of Pittsburgh in the early 1900s. The Clark Bar came into existence in time to become a favorite for U.S. soldiers fighting World War I, and its popularity carried over after the boys came home. Like so many early candy favorites, this one is also currently produced by NECCO.


A popular misconception about this chocolate-covered bar of caramel and peanuts, created in 1920, is that it was named for baseball player Babe Ruth. While disputed, it has never been proven false. But Baby Ruth candy maker Curtiss Candy Company sued another candy maker who put out a "Babe Ruth Home Run Bar", on grounds that the candy names were too similar. The official line from Curtiss Candy, echoed to this day from contemporary producer Nestle, is that the bar is named after Ruth Cleveland, daughter of U.S. president Grover Cleveland. Some sources allege that Curtiss Company made up the Ruth Cleveland story in order to win the lawsuit and that it was actually named for the baseball player. Skeptics note that "Baby Ruth" died in 1904 -16 years before the creation of the candy bar.


The Mounds Bar was created in 1920 by the Peter Paul Candy Manufacturing Company and was originally a single bar of chocolate-covered coconut instead of the current two smaller bars. Although the Peter Paul Company would later produce a number of coconut-based treats (including Almond Joy), during World War II the company faced severe coconut shortages. Rather than ration its top product, the company temporarily discontinued several other candy brands to ensure that Mounds would stay in production.


Mars Inc., one of the largest privately-held companies in America, got its start with this candy bar in 1923, when the candy maker Forrest Mars developed the candy to approximate the taste of a malted milk drink in chocolate bar form. In 1926, the bar was offered in chocolate and vanilla flavors, with the vanilla version becoming the Forever Yours bar for over fifty years before becoming the Milky Way Dark bar (now the Milky Way Midnight).


1. United States: M&Ms

2. Australia and the United Kingdom: Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar

3. Germany: Milka milk chocolate bar

4. Brazil: Trident chewing gum

5. Japan: Meiji chocolate bar

6. France: Hollywood chewing gum

7. Russia: Orbit chewing gum

8. Mexico: Trident chewing gum

9. Thailand: Hall's cough drops


The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader History's Lists.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader is having their annual Holiday Sale, in which you can save 30% on your purchase! Get free shipping on orders of $35 or more by using the code HOL10SHIP. And check out the BRI's newest volume, Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader.

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