Candy isn’t just delicious—it’s been involved in its share of important and sticky historical moments. Here are a few highlights from the treats’ past.
1. Ben Franklin peddled sweets. As early as 1739, Franklin’s Philadelphia print shop advertised the sale of “very good chocolate.”
2. Why is bubble gum usually pink? That was the only food dye color on hand when the chewy stuff was invented in 1928.
3. When post-war inflation jacked the price of Canadian candy bars from five cents to eight, Canadian children protested against the outrage by taking to the streets with signs like “Candy is dandy, but 8 cents isn’t handy!” The pint-sized outrage only ended when parents became nervous that the demonstrations felt a little Communist and ordered their kids to stop striking.
4. The idea of chocolate on Valentine’s Day was first introduced in 1868 when a confectioner thought to market his new “eating chocolates” (today’s favorite treats debuted as just a drink) by packaging them in increasingly elaborate heart-shaped boxes that were advertised as keepsakes.
5. In February 2014 a German cook created the largest gummy candy on record. The behemoth tipped the scales at 1,128 pounds, 12 ounces.
6. Supposedly, fudge got its name from its association with the “Seven Sisters” women’s colleges of the 1890s, where it was a term polite women could use instead of swearing.
7. Early 19th century penny candies came in a range of shapes, from shoes and boats to cigarettes and gin bottles.
8. The first candy cookbook to feature a chapter on chocolate recipes didn’t appear until 1917.
9. When the military commissioned a chocolate bar to serve as field rations during World War II, one of the requirements was that it should not taste very good. The instructions specified that the bar should taste “a little better than a boiled potato” so that the troops wouldn’t be tempted to gobble them up too quickly.
10. During the Great Depression, many candies used words like “dinner” and “sandwich” in their names. There is some debate as to whether this was a ploy to appeal to hungry Depression-era families eager for a cheap meal substitute or if it was simply eye-catching advertising.
11. The earliest mentions of sugar touted its medicinal properties. The ancient Greeks wrote that sugar water was good for the bladder and helped with kidney stones, and Sanskrit texts make mention of as many as 12 different varieties of sugar, each with distinct curative properties.
12. In fact, centuries after these ancient medical texts incorporated sweets, hard candies were inspired by the candy coating pharmacists applied to medicines to make them more palatable.
13. Lollipops, invented in the early 1900s, got their name from a famous racehorse at the time: Lolly Pop.
14. Candy canes have been decorating holiday trees since the late 1840s, but they didn’t get their iconic red and white stripes until the 1920s.
15. Saltwater taffy is not actually made with ocean water, despite its prevalence on boardwalks. The name has been traced to 1880 when a young candy merchant’s stand was swamped by an evening storm and the following day, in his frustration at the scene, he sarcastically offered a young girl interested in purchasing some of his sweets a “salt water taffy.” The name stuck.