from Steven Stern
Candy is dandy, but some venerable American treats have pretty interesting back stories. Here are a few for you to chew on.
Russ Sifers / New England Confectionery Co., Inc.
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 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.