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The Wild and Not-So-Wicked Halloween Candies of the 1920s

The 20s were a wild time – women got to vote in the first year of the decade and lost their wealth by the last. In-between we saw flappers, prohibition, and American expatriates resettling in Paris where they reported in on everything from the arts to the art of love-making.

As for the Halloweens? Revelers still ate the nuts and fruits dating back to ancient rituals, but the 20’s also introduced riotous new candies, the more orange and black the better.

On the list were molded chocolates, shaped like cats, jack o’ lanterns and other Halloween emblems; jelly beans, plain and jumbo; lollipops; hard candies; truffles and other chocolates in decorated Halloween boxes; chocolate covered nuts, ie Bridge Mix; peppermint patties; chocolate covered cherries; orange and black jelly beans, gum drops, and candy corn; cream witches; cream owls; and orange and black sugar sticks. To name a few.

By the 1930s, parties shared the stage with Trick or Treating. Today, of course, Trick-or-Treat is center on the Halloween stage, with candy a secondary presence often replaced by alcohol. Regardless, the days of elegant Halloween sweets has died off, leaving behind cheap, but still fun, grandchildren.

A Quick Look at the History of 1920s Candy that Are Still with Us Today

  • Jelly Beans. Originated around 900 CE as the Turkish Delight. Morphed into the candy covered jelly bean in Boston, mid-1800s
  • Bridge Mix. Made for bridge games, all the rage from the 20’s through the 50’s, so players could continue holding cards with one hand and snack on the small pieces of sweets with the other.
  • Gum Drops. Supposedly originated around 1801 with a presence on candy lists through the 19th century. One of the Turkish Delight family.
  • Candy corn. Originally made in 1898 by the Wunderlee Company of Philadelphia, known as “Chicken Feed.”

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Where Have All the Halloween Marshmallows Gone?

Where Have All the Halloween Marshmallows Gone?

Today, when you look at kids’ Halloween Bags you see individual serving size bags of, say, M&Ms, and little bricks of candy bars, but nary a marshmallow. Aside from Peeps’ Halloween selections, in fact, marshmallows have been cast aside in the one national event focused primarily on candy.
19th Century Marshmallow
Interested in the 19th century marshmallow? Taste for yourself.

This is strange given that marshmallows played a large part of Halloweens in days past. So where have they gone? Or, more precisely, why? I think I know. It all starts with the Halloweens that were celebrated in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, with parties, containing bowls of candy, finger food, fruit, and nuts cracked and ready-for-cracking.

The marshmallow had a presence at these places, in many forms: vanilla marshmallows, cut and ready to eat; chocolate-covered marshmallows, with a smooth, chocolate varnish; and marshmallows prepared for Halloween roastings. By the 1920s, when lollipops surfaced as American candy fare, marshmallow “pops” were all the rage, especially with orange and black sprinkles.

What are Marshmallows Made From?

Marshmallows at that time were relatively new: for 4,000 or so years, the marshmallow was made with the actually marshmallow root: a sticky, hard-to-manage sap.  In the late 1800s, food-makers discovered the wonders of the instant gelatin, whose many uses included a quick-and easy replacement for the unwieldy sap.  And, wonder of wonders, the marshmallow, the newest thing in the candy universe, was born…spongy, versatile and delicious…found its rightful place in the Halloween party.

What Ousted the Marshmallow?

By the mid-1920s, that place became vacate: parties included truffles, Hershey Bras, decorated Halloween candy boxes, and mixed nuts. As for the marshmallow: that was the feature item at Halloween roasts, but no longer a major player.

So what ousted the marshmallow? One reason could be that the novelty wore off as the versatility of chocolate and other sweets increased. Second, in the late 1920s, a seed was planted that would change American Halloweens for good, likely in Wellesley Massachusetts. That seed was called “Trick-or-Treating” and over the next few decades, it spread across the nation until it became a national event in the late 1940s.
Halloween candies were bountiful, of course, including candy cigarettes, Dubble Bubble gum, Milky Way bars, Mint Juleps, Cracker Jacks, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Roll Pops…All of these candies easy-to-package and sturdy enough to withstand the requirements of a  Halloween bag.
Today, marshmallows do have a presence: every so often they even appear in the odd Halloween roasts. As for me: I miss the marshmallow. Soft, tasty, and unassuming and with an impressively long history. May it never end!


Halloween Candy: A Different Kind of Sweet

Halloween Candy: A Different Kind of Sweet

Halloween candy entered the American food scene in the late 1800s, the hey-day of themed parties and flirtations with decadence. The candy appeared in more of a drizzle than a rush, with nary a sign of the M&M, candy bars, candy corn, or the other sugary-sweet classics that would follow.

In fact, those early Halloween foods were more or less of a bridge between the modern treats and the ancient foods, when today’s Halloween was a harvest ritual and observance of the departed, prompted by the wintry specter of death.

Turn-Of-Century Halloween Candy

Victorian Halloween Drawing The typical turn-of-century fare included nuts, chestnuts, peanuts, and walnuts, reminiscent of the Scottish and English “Nut Crack Night.” Newspaper ads of the times also featured such Halloween delights as grapes and apples: apples, in particular, were standard Celtic fare in such sweet creations as “fadge,” AKA potato cakes.

Others ads advertised dates and figs, all in keeping with the Jewish High Holidays, celebrating the New Year while honoring the dead, and the following Sukkut, a harvest festival. As for the Aztecs and others, they had the Great Feast of the Dead.

When it came to sweets, turn-of-century revelers enjoyed marshmallows of all kinds, from chocolate-covered to plain old naked, as well as almonds in a variety of guises, such as the Jordan almond, glace almonds, and almond toffee, among a few others.

The almonds remind me that Halloween was also a celebration of rebirth and the living: for millenniums, almonds have symbolized sweet beginnings, as the almond tree is the first to flower in spring.