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Black Music Month

We cannot let June slip by without acknowledging Black Music Month and the remarkable contribution of black musicians to our culture, our history, and, dare I say, our candy.  Here are three of our favorites:


James P. Johnson.  In 1894 and the great African American musician and composer was born. Classically trained, he went on to bridge the gap between ragtime and jazz, as back-up player for such greats as Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith, mentor to Duke Ellington and  Fats Waller, among many others, and an accompanist on over 400 recordings, and colleag

ue of George Gershwin. One of his most enduring compositions, was the song, the Charleston, likely written in 1913. The popularity snowballed a 1920s hit. The flappers adopted the song and the dance, where it was featured in images of speakeasies with overflowing and deliciously illegal cocktails. In 1925, candy-maker Donley Cross, invented a candy named for the dance and the song: Charleston Chew. Hear the Charleston. Buy a Bag of Prohibition Candy and get an old time blues CD free.

Charleston Chew

Robert Johnson: Robert Johnson was born in 1911 in an environment rife with poverty, hunger and illiteracy and the KKK. Where Johnson got his start in music is anyone’s guess, but it grew at the Saturday night dances where he watched the first generation of blues masters, such as Willie Brown and Charley Patton, play. Eventually, Johnson took to the road, playing in juke joints and other places. Robert Johnson’s first recording was on November 23, 1936: Twenty-nine more followed the next year. When he died at 27, Johnson left behind a legacy that that changed music forever. One song, “It’s So Hot” was about the Hot Tamale (AKA sex). So popular was the Hot Tamale culture, Just Born, makers of the Peep, turned it into a favorite hot-and-tasty candy. Hear It’s So Hot.  Buy a bag of Hot Tamales and get an old time Blues CD free.

Hot Tamales

Billie Holiday:  Billie Holiday, born in 1915, was raised in an impoverished section of Baltimore. She spent spending two years in reform school, ran errands in a brothel and worked as a prostitute. Eventually, she wound up singing in a speakeasy which launched a remarkable, international career, breaking barriers as a black woman working with an all-white orchestra. Tragically she suffered from alcohol and drug addiction which landed her in jail. When released months later, talent agent Ed Fishman convinced her to give a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday thought no one would come. Instead, the concert was sold out.  Eventually, her addiction killed her but her achievements were a model for generations. Her song, “Sugar” is a classic. Hear Sugar.  Buy a bag of Prohibition Toffees and get an old-time Blues CD free.

I call my baby my sugar
I never maybe my sugar
That sugar baby of mine
He’s special ration
Funny he never asks for my money
All I give him is honey
And that he can spend anytime

I’d make a million trips to his lips
If I were a bee
Because he’s sweeter than chocolate candy to me
He’s confectionary

Sugar I never cheat on my Sugar
‘Cause I’m too sweet on my Sugar
That sugar baby of mine

July 4th: Marshmallows, Patriots and Our First Founders

July 4th is fast approaching and we Americans toast marshmallows, set off fireworks, and have an overall great time honoring the founders of our nation. True Treats Historic Candy is right onboard, ready to celebrate the brave, difficult and enduring contributions of our forefathers and mothers like nobody’s business! July 4th: Marshmallows, Patriots and Our First Founders

So, as proprietors of a candy store, it makes sense that we’d focus on those who devoted their lives to cane sugar – a powerful force in the economy and diets of early Americans. I am speaking, of course, of the enslaved workers, without whose efforts our nation may never have been.

Only…words are harder to find than a well-meaning American might think.  For example, we call these workers “slaves,” which isn’t exactly right. They didn’t choose to be slaves, slavery wasn’t in their blood, like, say, being British or a colonist. They were “enslaved” – a condition forced on them by… British colonists.

As for their resilience, strength, and other distinguishable attributes? The usual description involves some variation of “victim” – all about cowering and capitulation. “Survivors” would be better but that raises another question. They were surviving inequities at the hands of who, exactly? Their “masters”? Masters at what? An artist is a master of their craft. A wise teacher is a master who passes down a skill. But “masters” of enslaved people? A more accurate term would be “slaveholder” or maybe “abusers,” although in historic circles that probably wouldn’t fly.

The plot thickens when hard-working enslaved adults are relegated to defiant kids in such expressions as the “masters punished” rather than the more realistic “brutalized” or “exacted their revenge.” Then there’s that “ran-away” business, first used by slaveholders eager to catch workers who actually didn’t “run-away” but “escaped”. And plenty of them were victorious or, in the parlance of the Revolutionary War, they won.

So, this July 4th, let’s celebrate all the founders of our nation in words that describe who they really were and why we should honor them.


July 4th: Let’s Celebrate our Nation’s Founders…All of Them

Cane sugar was one of the main reasons for enslavement in the U.S. The cane sugar plantations were infamous: the average worker suffered egregious injuries, lived short lives, often ending in their 20s, and were typically malnourished with little or no medical care. They, and others in similar circumstances, were also among the founders of our nation.


July 4th is fast approaching, and we Americans eat hot dogs, send off fireworks, and have an overall great time honoring the Declaration of Independence and the founders of our great nation. True Treats Historic Candy is right on board, ready to celebrate the brave, difficult and enduring contributions of our forefathers and mothers like nobody’s business!

But here’s the thing: these folks in their long skirts and ruffled frocks weren’t the only ones busily building. They had a cadre of enslaved workers tucked away in quarters, toiling in a system of brutality, a blip on the historic map. So this July 4th why aren’t we honoring them, too? Because our language works like an eraser, wiping them away as we try to describe them.

Here’s what I mean. In common conversation, we talk about these workers as “slaves.” Not slaves. They didn’t choose to be slaves and slavery wasn’t in their blood. Not like, say, being Korean or Polish, or whatever. They were “enslaved” – a condition foisted on them. And they didn’t “runaway” from the places where they were held – from Southern plantations to ports of Boston – they “escaped.”

As for the quality of their live: they weren’t “victims”: victims cower and wilt. They were survivors… surviving horrors from not their “masters,” but “slaveholders” who justified the, not economic institution of slavery, but cultural of sadism, brutality, you pick, which ultimately had little to do with mere economy as post-Civil War history proves. As for the well-documented punishments: the slaveholder’s didn’t “punish” the enslaved workers – that’s for kids and criminals – but exacted retribution.  For what, you may ask. Good question.

So, this July 4th, when speaking of the founders of our nation, feel free to borrow from this text. If you think this is PC talk – knock it off. Language counts, it shapes our identity, our sense of history. That’s why we use some words and not others, like “enslaved,” “survivors,” and, oh yes, “founders.” And have a happy fourth.

Father’s Day: Expression of Love or a Commercial Trap? Why Worry?

If you’re torn about Father’s Day – wanting to show Dad love but avoid a commercial trap – take heart.  While some people believe Father’s Day, and its counter-part Mother’s Day, are a Hallmark Card company gimmick, both have sincere origins dating back to the early 1900s in West Virginia.

Father’s Day began in 1908 at a church service honoring 362 coal-miners who died at the Fairmont Coal Company disaster in Monongah, West Virginia. The one-time event honored not only those men but all fathers. The idea was picked up a year later by Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington to honor her own father, a widower raising six kids. She lobbied shopkeepers, the YMCA, government officials, and anyone else who might take action. In 1910, she was successful: the state of Washington launched the first Father’s Day.  In 1916, President Wilson acknowledged the day by unfurling a flag in Washington by pressing a button in DC and, at long last in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge got on board, promoting Father’s Day in 1924. It wasn’t until 1972, in the heat of the election campaign, that Richard Nixon made Father’s Day an official Federal holiday.

Mother’s Day dates back much further to the ancient Greeks and Romans who honored the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele respectively each spring, and later, the early Christians who honored the Virgin Mary. By the 1600s, the British had established Mothering Sunday celebrating motherhood with gifts and flowers. In the U.S the seeds of Mother’s Day were planted in 1872 when Julia Ward Howe, an activist, and writer of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” tried to establish Mother’s Day as a day of peace. But the true founder of Mother’s Day was activist and social worker Anna Jarvis, of Grafton, West Virginia. Childless and never married she established the day in 1908 in honor of her own mother.

Opponents of the commercialization of both days, weighed in immediately. In the 1920s and 30’s, a movement sprung up to blend the two into a single commercial-free celebration called “Parent’s Day.” Their efforts were undone during the Great Depression when struggling marketers and merchants advocated for making Father’s Day a “Second Christmas”, with a long list of products from pipes to neckties to make the day complete. During World War II, Father’s Day rose up as a way to support the troop and the commercial deal was sealed.

Today, Americans spend more than $12.7 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts and a whopping $21.2 billion on Mother’s day – a lot, I know. But here’s the thing: Americans also hold cookouts and other family gatherings, spend time away from screens to talk to each other, have fun, and, above all, show appreciation in an era that challenges the well-being of even the best of families. So what if there are presents? Gifts never hurt anyone and, besides, humble or elaborate, they’re signs of love.

Something’s Old is Entirely New at Chicago’s Sweets and Snacks Expo

Regal Crowns, Turkish Taffy, and Classic Tootsie Rolls

What’s new in the candy universe? I decided to find out at the annual Sweets and Snacks Expo held at Chicago’s McCormick Hall. What I found was plenty of candies that are delightfully old. Best of all, the owners of the companies who make them were there – such as Mitchel Goetz, whose family has been making Caramel Creams for generations, and Ross Born, of the Peeps family fame… my personal real life heroes.

Among the classics were the Wax Lips, big bar Tootsie Rolls, American Licorice Black Licorice Twists, and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (now made by Just Born). Even better, candy-makers such as Ken Weisen are bringing long-lost classics back, such as the Regal Crown, the epitome of tart tastes from the 1950s, Reeds Candy of the late 1800s, and the 1930s wonder, Turkish Taffy, originally intended to be marshmallow.

So, candy-makers, here’s a request from my customers: how about bringing back Sen Sen, Black Jack Gum, and Smith Brother’s Cough Drops, among dozens of other. We miss them – their flavor and the memories they bring.

As for me, I’ll be attending the 2018 expo to find what’s new that’s entirely old.

Potato Candy

The potato candy is quickly rising to the best seller list at the shop. Our customers have two reactions to this Americanized German immigrant. One is: “What is potato candy?” The other: “My grandmother use to make this.” So, let’s address this fascinating candy:

What is potato candy? Potato candy came to the U.S., somewhere around the turn of the century, reportedly from Germany. It arrived in recipe form – possibly memorized rather than written – with immigrants. The candy consisted of two main ingredients: potato and sugar. One it hit the American shores, it took on peanut butter – the delicious tan swirl that gives potato candy its unique form.

My grandmother use to make this. The potato candy soon became popular among the Irish of Appalachia who were unable to afford more expensive candy, such as chocolates. Potatoes were readily available, the candy was easy to make, and it tasted great. Generations that followed continued to make potato candy, passing the recipe down orally.

If you’re interested in trying potato candy, let us know. We whip up a batch weekly so it’s always fresh.


Handmade Potato Candy
Handmade Potato Candy


All-American Caramels
All-American Caramels


Chocolate Covered Coconut Squares
Chocolate Covered Coconut Squares



Kentucky Creams aka Kentucky Pulls
Kentucky Creams aka Kentucky Pulls



What Dad Really Wants? He-Man Sweets

What better Father’s Day gift for Dad than true he-man candy. The he-man candy is even suitable for men in touch with their feminine side: the range is far enough to suit virtually any testosterone- touched palette. Just look at these manly favorites…

  • Chowards Violet Mints: Seriously, violet? Yes, these perfume- tasting classic were made in the 1930s and a hit among men in their native NYC…including cops!
  • Candy bars:  Any kind would work– they took off in after World War I where they made an appearance in the Doughboy’s rations .I’d go for the Goldberg’s Peanut Chews and the Clark Bar…two that made it to the front.
  • Bourbon Balls made with Woodford ReserveThe official bourbon ball of the Kentucky Derby. Need I say more?
  • Toffee-covered peanuts: A classic from baseball games. Sweet and crispy outside with a satisfying crunch within.
  • Big League Chew: A more recent baseball favorite, these bubblegum treats inspire nostalgia, if not fun.

For the father who’s been especially good this year, how about a basket or collections, meant to amuse and inspire:

Retro Pop: Why not go all out and get Dad a retro basket with the best the 1900s had to offer? He’d love it.

History Lovin’ Dad: A 1700s or 1800s collection, with a scroll telling the history of each.

Military Dad: An armed forces favorite collection of candy from the Revolutionary War to World War II. Or focus in – we have Civil War collections, too.

Baseball Dad: Baseball’s best all in one bag, with homage to the greats…ie, Babe Ruth.

Licorice Lovers:  A collection of pure black – from the twists to the roots. A manly choice, Mom will also enjoy.

Need ideas? Want to make your own basket for Dad? Give us call, and we’ll discuss.


Choward's Fragrant Violet Mints
Choward’s Fragrant Violet Mints


Bourbon Balls
Chocolate Covered Bourbon Balls


Armed Forces Collection
Armed Forces Collection



Licorice Lovers Collection
Licorice Lovers Collection