History of Candy

The history of candy dates back to ancient peoples who must have snacked on sweet honey straight from bee hives. The ancient Egyptians preserved nuts and fruits with honey, and by the Middle Ages physicians had learned how to mask the bad taste of their medicines with sweetness, a practice still widespread. The manufacturing of sugar began during the middle ages and at that time sugar was so expensive that only the rich could afford candy made from sugar.

Boiled sugar plums were known in the seventeenth-century England and soon were to appear in the American colonies where maple-syrup candy was popular in the North and benne-seed (sesame seed) confections were just as tempting in the South. In New Amersterdam one could enjoy “marchpane,” or “marzipan,” which is very old decorative candy made from almonds ground into a sweet paste. While the British called such confections, “sweetmeats,” Americans came to call “candy,” from the Arabic qandi, “made of sugar,” although one finds “candy” in English as early as the fifteenth century. Cacao, from which chocolate is made, was re-discovered in 1519 by Spanish explorers in Mexico.

Caramels were known in the early eighteenth century and lollipops by the 1780s.”Hard candies” made from lemon or peppermint flavors were popular in the early nineteenth century. A significant moment in candy history occured at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, where “French-style” candies with rich cream centers were first displayed. But it was the discovery of milk chocolate in Switzerland in 1875 that made the American candy bar such a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century.

The price of manufacturing sugar was much lower by the seventeenth century when hard candy became popular. By the mid-1800s, there were over four hundred factories in the United States producing candy.

I am sure many of you still use the term ‘penny candy’. I would say many favorites are still enjoyed to this day… Tootsie Rolls, Sweethearts, Hersey’s Kisses, bottle caps, candy corn, bubble gum, jawbreakers and licorice.


Source: Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 54-5)
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