Free Shipping on Orders over $49 (Retail Only)

Shop Now

All About Wonderous Ice Cream Toppings

All About Wonderous Ice Cream Toppings

Ice Cream is by far an all-American favorite – ever-present at birthday parties, summer vacations, miniature golf “courses” and at the end of hard days when a break is definitely in order. I remember my father running out on an occasional evening to Friendly Ice Cream Store, a chain that started in Massachusetts, to buy take-out SUNDAES!

The very mention was enough to make the heart pound…then the choice. What kind of ice cream? Dish or cone? And THEN – the TOOPPPINNGS! So many to chose from. BUT WAIT – why choose? For me, it was marshmallow plus hot fudge plus whipped cream

Ice Cream Toppings

So, when I considered the best way to celebrate summer this month, I thought what better way than to research ice cream. But not JUST ice cream. Ice cream toppings, that, let’s face it, make the ice cream experience complete. What I found was, in some ways surprising, in other ways, well, as it should be.

Before I start, though, a few words about ice cream cones and sundaes, the quintessential treats. These wonders of Americana were actually newcomers in the fun food scenes –the cone and sundae were invented somewhere between the 1890s and early 1900s – no one knows for sure. At the time, chewing gums, chocolates, and hard candies, not to mention cakes and pies, were old news.

Popular Flavors of Ice Cream Toppings

Popular flavors of both ice cream and toppings around that time were fruit-based – pineapple and strawberries prime among them. Many of the fruits were turned into syrups, others chunks of actual fruit that cascaded from the ice cream to the dish or napkin. That was, of course, mainly for sundaes.

Ice cream cones had another claim to toppings – sprinkles aka nonpareils, which had a venerable, centuries-old history and the “jimmies” a more recent Massachusetts contribution. Today the lines between the two are blurred, but just to be clear – sprinkles, little colorful round sugar balls that crunch in your mouth and jimmies, longer and softer but equally rainbow colors (except chocolate) for maximum effect.

One way or another nuts played a part, as well – either in the ice cream or on it, with peanuts, especially Spanish peanuts, almonds, and cashews among the favorites. Of course, some were on the fancy side, think: cinnamon almonds, and pecan pralines, both established treats at the time. Marshmallow – especially marshmallow topping – was relatively new, made from a mid-1800s invention, instant gelatin.

What I found so surprising –yet not unexpected – was the prevalence of fruit and nuts. Not, like today, an afterthought, but the pièce de résistance. At the time, these natural items were actually to the universe of candy and ice cream, sold together on shelves, in displays – one loving family of food. The advertisements used descriptive words, worthy of embarrassment – “sumptuous,” “mouth-watering” and “tantalizing” about fruits. The nuts were “jumbo”, and “fresh”, just off the boat from some far-off land.

Likewise, the toppings were fruit and nut-based, even chocolate syrup was described as the product of the exotic Central American cacao tree.

Much has changed about ice cream over the years, what with the outrageous colors and unheard-of flavors, imposters of the natural selections that came before. But the toppings, I am proud to say, have stayed the same.

Cheers everyone and enjoy!

The History of the Illustrious Buttercreams

Buttercreams are usually not first-in-mind for chocolate-lovers when deciding on just-the-right chocolatey snack. But, at one time, buttercreams and other cream candies, were the pièces de résistance of the chocolate world. Their story begins, of course, with chocolate itself and culminates in the heyday of chocolate innovations – the mid-1800s through the 1920s.

When did Americans start eating buttercreams?

Before there were buttercreams, there was the cacao tree which originated in Mesoamerica…and from this tree grew the cacao bean. The bean, by the way, springs directly from the trunk of the tree – a true sight to behold!

Cacao pods hanging from bark – Wikipedia

The cacao’s route was circuitous, to say the least, having left Mesoamerica for Mexico, to, variously, Native Americans of the Southwest and Spain with Spanish conquerors, then elsewhere in Europe, via the marriage of royalty from one chocolate-loving nation to another, THEN back on British ships to North America where European settlers got hold of it.

Frothing chocolate depicted on ancient Maya ceramic container

Chocolate in the “New World”

The first sighting of the cacao amongst European immigrants appeared in a petition drafted in 1670 by Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard “to keepe a house of publique Entertainment for the selling of Coffee and Chucalettoe [sic].” The officials agreed although, as in Europe, chocolate had its detractors, primarily those who considered it a sin.

About 100 years later, an Irish immigrant, John Hannon, started the first chocolate mill, turning the cacao bean and its internal “nibs” into the ingredients for a coveted, if not bitter, drink. Hannon was brilliant but not entirely business-like and not at all wealthy. So, he brought in James Baker, a wealthy Harvard College graduate and businessman, for help.

The Birth of Baker’s Chocolate

After literal nose-to-the-grindstone, the company was producing 900 pounds of chocolate for the Colonists. Not all 18th century inhabitants were equal, of course, and neither was their chocolate. Baker’s shamelessly made three varieties: “No. 1 Premium” or “Best Chocolate” the purest, and most expensive line for the wealthy few; “No. 2” or “Common Chocolate,” was a grade below, and used by workers of European descent; and “No. 3,” known as “Inferior Chocolate” used by enslaved workers in the South and West Indies. This version was thick with rice – more a gelatinous brew than a satisfying drink.

The Hannon-Baker partnership ended for reasons unknown, but one thing is certain: Hannon went on a trip, possibly to the West Indies in search of cacao, and was never heard from again, likely killed in a shipwreck. The business was called “Baker’s Chocolate’, forever misleading people to believe the brand was just for bakers.


Card for Baker’s Chocolate


Baker’s Chocolate Logo, 1873

Early Chocolate Enthusiasts

Then, as now, chocolate had many fans, some illustrious. One was Judge Samuel Sewall, who, from 1674 to 1729, kept a journal where he recorded uniquely commonplace goings-on, giving historians access to the lives of the Puritans and candy enthusiasts a glimpse of the early life of chocolate.


Judge Samuel Sewall, 1729, by John Smibert Wikipedia

In his diary, Sewall wrote in 1697 about having “chockalett” and venison for a breakfast where “Massachuset and Mixco meet.” In 1702, he recorded bringing Minister Samuel Whiting “2 balls of Chockalett and a pound of figs,” because he was “languishing” and Mrs. Stoddard “two half pounds of chockalett” instead of Commencement Cake. Chocolate as medicine and gift was common, as were its alleged aphrodisiac properties. Today, in that regard, little has changed.

Page from Samuel Sewall Diary, from Massachusetts Historical Society

By the way – Sewall was a prominent merchant, and one of the judges who bestowed the tortuous sentences at the Salem Witch Trials. Within five years, he was wracked with shame and guilt, publicly apologized, fasted yearly in repentance, and became an early and ardent abolitionist.

Chocolate and the American Revolution

Other celebrated chocolate enthusiasts included Benjamin Franklin. He admired the exotic bean for its alleged health and medicinal value which included curing smallpox.  His shipments to officers in the French and Indian War included “6 lbs. of chocolate” (plus sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar, cheese, Madeira, Jamaican spirits, and mustard). His friend and fellow Revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson, said: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America, which it has in Spain.”

Another benefit: chocolate was a great alternative to British tea.

How did Chocolate Taste?

This early chocolate was a bitter drink that wealthy New Englanders enjoyed at various times, particularly at breakfast or, possibly, instead of breakfast. They had to work to get it, too, first by boiling water which they poured over a cake of chocolate, then stirred constantly in a chocolate pot until the chocolate had dissolved, and, at last, the liquid was rich and frothy. (This process changed little from the original where chocolate was poured back-and-forth to create a frothy consistency.) Depending on the hour and purpose, they may have added sugar, spices, milk, or even wine, which they probably needed after all that effort.

An Aztec woman generates foam by pouring chocolate from one vessel to another. (1553) Wikipedia



A Lady Pouring Chocolate by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1744) Wikipedia
Collection of chocolate post – former home of Wilbur Chocolates. Taken by author. 2016.


So – Buttercreams?

Starting in the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution was on the march and innovations were on the rise. While the U.S. was embroiled in a Civil War, Europeans were creating innovations in the world of chocolate. Among the leaders were the British Quakers with such familiar names as the Cadburys, Rowntrees, and Frys who went on to pioneer the use of factory methods for making chocolate and the steam engine for grinding beans. They also invented the candy bar!

Fry’s Chocolate Ad, 1901


The new possibilities for chocolate were endless, producing enrobed creations be they chocolate bonbons, truffles with gnash centers, or creams including “buttercreams.” They were voluptuous, yes, and the best ones of all were French. By French, the chocolates weren’t necessary from France, but were in the “French style,” such as the French style cream-filled candy, introduced in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London. It won an adoring audience in the US, who had long been enamored in all things French.

Chocolate ad Cacao Lacte by Lucien Lefevre-1903

The “French-style” creams and other chocolates were marvelous, sweet, yet gritty. Things changed in 1879 when Swiss chocolatier Adolphe Lindt (yes – that Lindt of Lindt chocolate) invented a “conching” machine, which massaged the gritty chocolate into soft and supple submission.


Chocolate Lindt Chocolate Ad 1890

Buttercreams in the U.S.

So popular were these chocolates that some post-war U.S. “chocolatiers” devoted themselves to their existence. Others, such as the illustrious Shrafft’s Confectionary of Boston, made them en masse then wholesaled them to smaller companies. Schrafft also carried chocolates in their own retail shops, complete with the French-ish names such as “D’Or Elegante,” and distinct gold-hued packaging. Their ads said:

“From the French comes the motif for this distinguished package, but only Schrafft could have supplied such chocolates. Search among the most exclusive shops of London, Paris, Rome-you will find nothing to compare to them. The golden box of chocolates is now offered for the first time. It contains the daintiest of our French truffle, nuts, fruits, and cream centers.”

Not all creams were touted as being “French” but all did have upscale sounding assortments with names like “Society Chocolates,” “Lady Fairfax Chocolates,” and “Paradise Chocolate.” Their advertising was sensual and sublime. Here’s one from Mead Chocolate in 1920: “A box of Belle Mead chocolates is an open door to the magic realms of chocolatery where all’s delicious. Made from the purest ingredients moulded into sweets of rare delight-into bon bons and raspberry creams, into peppermint and orange paste, mapled creams and caramels, and many other luscious morsels.”

Belle Mead Advertisement, December 19, 1920


Gradually, creams, as well as other glamourous chocolates, found a new home in daily settings. During Prohibition, restauranteurs sold them as an after-dinner replacement for alcohol. During WWI and World War II, chocolate-makers recommended that families at home send packages to the troops – while supplies lasted.

Whitman’s Ad, World War II

Buttercreams Today

Today, creams have returned to their status as the perfect punctuation for events, tucked in Valentine’s Day collections, given as gifts – be it thank-you’s or birthdays, or bought and saved for just-the-right moment. As before, they’re still luxuriously sweet and flavorful.…with roots reaching deep into Mesoamerica.


The Heath Bar: America’s “Finest” Toffee

What is the Heath Bar?

The heath bar is a deliciously thin, even candy bar, consisting of a thin layer of toffee wrapped in a smooth layer of milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of soft, smooth and crunch. Born in the U.S., the Heath Bar remains one of the nation’s great candy bars…all thanks to the doings of a schoolteacher and his two sons.

Heath Bar Today

Toffy, the Candy Bar, and the Birth of the Heath Bar

To understand the Heath Bar, it’s important to understand the candy bar. Now a favorite candy of American men today – the candy bar created by the Frye family of England in 1847. Most likely their candy bars were gritty as a means of creating the smooth chocolate didn’t exist yet. That changed in 1879 when Rodolphe Lindt invented a process known as “conching” to create the smooth, delectable texture of the chocolate we love so much today. CHOCOLATE BARS – In Order of Creation: Dark, Chocolate w/Almonds, Milk, White:

            Fry’s Chocolate ad 1901

Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, Peanut Chew: The Candy Bar Difference

Candy bars were different from other chocolates.  Most chocolates, indeed, most vintage candy, was weighed and sold by the pound. Candy bars, including the Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, and others, were called “count line’ candies, sold by the piece, typically wrapped and ready to go. Around 1912, a new invention appeared on the candy scene called “combination candy bars,” a chocolate candy bar filled caramel, peanuts, marshmallow, and, yes, toffee: all relatively new, post-Civil War ingredients the consumer loved. One of the first was the Goo Goo Cluster, made in Nashville and still around today:

              Goo Goo Cluster Made in 1912

These new candy bars gave confectioners the opportunity to fill their expensive chocolate with deliciously cheaper fillers, meaning they were more profitable. Even better, the count line aspect of candy bars, made them portable enough to withstand long trips to places such as the trenches in World War I, where they appeared in the first rations ever. These included the Clark Bar and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew.


                                        Clark Bar Ad

The Heath Bar, which was invented in 1928, eventually made an appearance in the supplies of fighters during World War II.

      World War II Ad

Enter Milk Chocolate, Toffee & A New American Classic: The Heath Bar

In 1914, just as candy bars were making a mark in the chocolate kingdom, L.S. Heath, a schoolteacher in Illinois, was looking for a line of work for his two oldest sons Bayard and Everett. The reason? Were they ne’er-do-wells? Youngsters just starting out? History doesn’t tell. Luckily, L.S. Heath found a small confectionery for sale. He bought the shop and soon his sons were selling ice cream, fountain drinks, and sweets.

One thing led to another, and candy salesmen were hanging around the Heath brothers’ store, talking, as they do, about candy. One of them was raving about another candy-maker’s toffee, called “Trail Toffee.” Legend has it the salesmen offered to provide the Heath brothers with the recipe…and the next thing you know, it’s 1928 and the company is making what was known as “Heath English Toffee” or, simply “Heath Toffee.” The Heath Brothers tweaked the recipe and soon marketed it as “America’s Finest.” People traveled from all over the place to get some.

    Heath Bar Ad 1920s

What is the Difference Between Toffee, English Toffee, and… Buttercrunch?

The difference between English toffee and plain old toffee isn’t entirely clear. Some say English toffee, made by the British, is made with more butter, and tends to be softer than the American version. In fact, some British toffee is closer to American taffy than, well, toffee. Then, there’s the explanation that nuts are the decisive factor. American toffee has nuts and British toffee doesn’t. If it has nuts on top, it’s actually buttercrunch. If it has nuts in it, it’s American toffee which is actually peanut brittle. Got it?

Never mind – stick with this: When the Heaths started selling their Heath Bar, they described it as “Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar.”

  True Treats’ Buttercrunch


LOOK: Here’s a toffee comparison from The Nibble: The Nibble: Buttercrunch Toffee Difference

 The Heath Bar Marketing Dilemma

In 1915, as the candy business was taking off, L.S. Heath bought a dairy. All went well, and in 1931, L.S. quit his job teaching school after twenty years. He then convinced his sons to sell the candy store and join the dairy business. They did, bringing at least some of the candy-making machinery with them.

It was the younger generation who also thought up this great marketing idea: why not sell our candies through the dairymen who went house-to-house selling milk, ice, and cheese. Just add “Heath Toffee” to the list and customers will add it to their purchases along with other products. And, of course, they did.

The Heath family also confronted a dilemma common to just about any manufacturer of any candy. How to distinguish themselves from the other toffee/English toffee/taffy/buttercrunch/brittle makers. They knew a good logo was at hand. So, they designed logo which had a large “H” at either end, with the “eat” in lower caps in the middle: HeatH.

  Heath Bar Ad with Two H’s

Now, here were the marketing dilemmas: First, the bar was one ounce, while the others were four, which convinced consumers they were buying a penny candy and not a five-cent bar which was typical of candy-makers of the time. Second, shoppers thought the name of the company was H&H with the “eat” telling them what to do with it. A third problem: the packaging, name aside, made it look like the laxative Ex-Lax. Salesmen weren’t sure what they were supposed to sell.

Reasons unknown, the Heath Bar took off anyway and is made by Hershey Today.

Lemonade: The Ultimate Retro Drink

Lemonade: The Ultimate Retro Drink

Lemonade is more than a tasty summer drink…it’s a pinnacle of festive occasions. According to the Norfolk Virginian of July 9, 1904, “Fourth of July without lemonade would be like the play Hamlet with Hamlet left out.”

Lemonade: The Beginnings

True? Absolutely. Especially when you consider how versatile this fabulous drink really is. At its most fundamental, lemonade is lemon, water, and sugar, a combination going back to Medieval Egypt and a drink called “qatarmizat.”

Mid-17th century and lemonade arrived in Europe where it found acclaim, especially in Paris where street vendors sold lemonade by the cup. Eventually, lemonade wound up in North America where the lemon trade had taken root in Florida. Its popularity rose with the rise of cane sugar – this sweetener, which once grew with almost reckless abandon in Asia and India, grew from the “blood and sweat” of enslaved laborers in the U.S. Since then, lemonade has gone through numerous iterations without leaving its original state – until recently, that is.


Fresh Lemonade All the Time, ANY Time

Essentially, there were two kinds of lemonade: fresh lemons and dried lemons, or a version thereof. The dried lemons are available as lemon crystals – lemon with lemon juice and citric acid. Add water and sugar and you’re done.

Buy Lemon Crystals, Harpers Ferry West Virginia, true treats historic candy,

The lemon crystals have made numerous appearances over the years, including in the rations of World War II soldiers. True Treats sells the natural crystals – a good alternative for fresh lemons as they’re easy-to-carry, appropriately tart, and essentially spoil-free. Compare the ingredients with the current trend of quick n’ easy “lemonade” that contains the following: “Artificial color, calcium fumarate, magnesium oxide, maltodextrin, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium citrate, tocopherol and yellow 5 lake.”

Interestingly, a purer recipe for the crystals showed up as far back as 1864, in Dr. Chase’s book “Dr. Chase’s Recipes and Information for Everybody”. Dr. Chase wrote voraciously about health, well-being and just about everything else –his books sold more than any other at the time…including the Bible and carried over 800 recommendations. He wrote:

Recipe for Lemonade to Carry in the Pocket: Loaf Sugar – rub it down finely in a mortar and add citric acid ½ oz. (tartaric acid will do) and continue the trituration until all is intimately mixed and bottled for use…It is best to dry the powders.

A rounding tablespoon can be done up in a paper and carried conveniently in the pocket when persons are going into out-of-the-way places, and added to half pint of cold water when all the beauties of lemonade will stand before you waiting to be drank, not costing a penny a glass. This can be made sweeter, or more sour, if desired.

If you want to read Dr. Chase’s book, which literally includes everything from medicinal solutions to advice for harness-makers, go HERE


Lemonade: The Iterations

Of course, plenty of iterations on the lemonade theme have cropped up over time: Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife cookbook of 1824 included this recipe for lemon cream, a version of lemonade. It might be worth a try:

“Pare the rind very thin from four fresh lemons, squeeze the juice, and strain it put them both into a quart of water, sweeten it to your taste, [or use True Treats Lemon crystals, to taste] add the whites of six eggs, beat to a froth; set it over the fire, and keep stirring until it thickens, but do not let it boil then pour it in a bowl; when cold, strain it through a sieve, put it on the fire, and add the yelks of the eggs stir it till quite thick, and serve it in glasses.”


Other recipes, using traditional lemonade as a base, include this spirited one from Candy and Ice Cream Magazine of 1915:

“Use five lemons and one cup full of sugar to each quart of water [or 2-3 tablespoons of crystalized lemons] to make strong lemonade. Bruise fresh mint leaves and stalks and add to the lemonade. Then add an equal amount of ginger ale and a good size piece of ice. Let stand about half an hour before serving in order that the mint may flavor the drink.”

Perhaps my favorite lemonade recipes come from the New American Cookbook of 1941. These recipes are about as simple and surprising as any out there, while never leaving the fundamental lemon-sugar-water base. Here are a few of them:


“Egg Lemonade”

1 Egg

1-1/2 Tablespoons of sugar

½ Teaspoon of salt

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Beat egg thoroughly. Add other ingredients. Add one cup cold water slowly, stirring steadily. Serves one.”

Then there’s this for the super-health inclined:

“Flaxseed Lemonade

2 Tablespoons Flaxseed

1 Cup Sugar

3 Lemons

[Or: 1 cup of True Treats’ lemon crystals with sugar.]

Pour 1quart boiling water over flaxseed. Simmer 45 minutes. Add sugar and rinds of the lemons (option: True Treats’ dried lemon peel if you’re using lemon crystals). Let stand 15 minutes. Add juice of lemons. Strain and serve hot or cold. Serves 2.”


If the last two recipes seem a bit challenging to the palate, try this one. It’s a winner!

“Grape Juice Lemonade”

Juice of 3 lemons

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups grape juice

Enough ice-water to make 1 quart

Combine ingredients in the order given. Chill for ½ hour. Serve in each glass a thin slice of lemon from which the seeds have been removed. [Optional. Another possibility is to use True Treats’ Fruit Slices. Daring, sweet with added value of fun.) This option will serve 6 water glasses or 18 punch glasses.”


AND, at last, this:

“Glorified Lemonade”

2 cups sugar

3 cups water

3 lemons, juice

2 limes, juice

2 cups orange or lemon carbonated beverage, or ginger ale

Boil sugar and water ten minutes. Cool. Add juice of lemons and lime, and the orange or lemon beverage, or ginger ale. Serves 6.”


For those of you who love lime but don’t have any readily at hand – no worries! True Treats can supply you with crystalized lime as well. Of course, you could always skip the lemon and replace and of these recipes with lime.

Lemonade Cocktails and Boozy Beverages

By now, you may be wondering about boozy lemonade. Before you think 1940s or ‘50s, step back a few centuries. Lemonade, spiked with alcohol, appeared during the reign of Genghis Khan in Mongolia. The mixture of “qatarmizat” aka lemonade and alcohol does not necessarily mean that early consumers were hanging out in a bar enjoying the combination – fermented drinks have long been used as a medicine as well as libation.

Lemons, if not lemonade, had a lead role in cocktails early on. An example is from Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tenders guide of 1862 – it’s one of many containing the lemon, water, and some variety of sugar:

“Gin Daisy

Take 3 or 4 dashes of Orgeat, or gum syrup.

3 dashes Maraschino.

The juice of half a small lemon.

1 wine-glass of Holland gin.

Fill glass 1/3 full of shaved ice.

Shake well, strain into a large cocktail glass, and fill with Seltzer or Apollinaris water.


To access the book get the online version for free HERE

Word of warning: The old-time cocktails make today’s selections look like soda pop.

Lemonade: The Un-Cocktail

In the 1870s prohibitionists espoused lemonade as an alternative to “evil” alcohol. First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, a vehement prohibitionist, was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” by the more alcohol inclined.

What about Pink Lemonade?

How did pink lemonade come into existence? Here are the options:

  1. Folks were adding strawberries, watermelon, and other pink/red fruits to their lemonade. The color ran and pink lemonade began.
  2. A concession worker at a circus accidently dropped cinnamon candy into the lemonade in 1912. The pink sold better and pink lemonade became an item.
  3. A circus worker had washed his tights and the red color ran. In need of water for lemonade, the circus concession stand used his pink-hued laundry water. People loved the pink.

We at True Treats like the first idea best, then #2. So, we’ve added fruit sugar to our make-your-own lemonade stand kit for the perfect pink – plus cinnamon candies should you be so inclined. Either way, pink lemonade was jump-started (if not started) by the ever-popular traveling circuses of the 1800s / early 1900s…and lemonade got a boost at the same time with the availability of ice.!

Lemonade Stands!

Lemonade stands were said to begin in New York around 1879 and continued, gaining speed in New York City and most likely elsewhere in the heat. Kids started running their own stands around that time – either making money for themselves or for choice charities.


MAKE YOUR OWN – Lemonade-stand in your home with our lemonade kit. Add fruit sugar or red hots for color if you like pink, and enjoy some of the summertime sweets from when lemonade stands started.

Our Facebook Friends’ Favorites

The Web site abounds with other lemonade-based drinks. We asked our Facebook friends for their ideas. The overall winner is Arnold Palmer’s lemonade – ½ lemonade and ½ sweet tea or some variation of the theme. Their alcohol-related recommendations were pretty basic:

  • Add vodka
  • In whiskey Sours
  • With gin

All sound good.

A few friends reported in about the health benefits of lemonade. Paula Mallory told us – “I drink Arnold Palmers all day, everyday!!! After I had to have a kidney stone removed a few years ago the doctor told me to drink lemon water daily. I guess you could say I comprised by adding my unsweetened lemonade to my southern sweet tea.” Emily Williams said: “ I make it with raw honey and use it to help mitigate my summer allergies.”

Another interesting comment was from Jim Beaver. He said he uses “1 part pomegranate juice and 3 parts lemonade.” As pomegranate was prevalent in the Mediterranean and Middle East when lemonade originated, it’s likely the pomegranate was added to lemonade then, too.

The Amazing NECCO Wafer: Where Retro Began

You may love Necco Wafers (as I do) or not like them at all…depending on your taste and memory of when you ate them. As for me – I once lived near the Necco factory in Cambridge Massachusetts and would knock on  a side door of the building on an occasional Thursday.  That was the day when the company store was open to workers, and a woman, maybe a manager, would open the door and give me some samples. I always offered to pay, and she always brushed me away. But why the side door? Why not go to my local pharmacy, candy store, or so many other spots and buy some there? BECAUSE: Tropical! My favorite Necco Wafers were the hard-to-find tropical varieties and the factory had rolls a’plenty. Not that the other flavors weren’t good enough. For me, they too were good enough and then some.

Necco Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Courtesy:

Love them or not, one thing is TRUE: Necco Wafers were an early candy, a true first footprint on the path to Retro candy and the story is amazing…starting with OLIVER CHASE!

Who Invented the NECCO Wafer?

Today’s retro candy was invented, more or less, in apothecaries where sugar reigned as a flavoring and curative. Some were actual pharmacies – some, shall we say, were sketchy. So, it makes sense that Oliver Chase, a genuine pharmacist, would be among the first to create what would be an early retro candy. Chase had immigrated from England in the 1840s and set up an apothecary in Boston with his brothers Silas and Daniel. One of his products was “soft paste,” lozenges consisting of sugar, gum Arabic, a flavoring and possibly gelatin.

As a medicine, Chase, like other pharmacists, mixed in numerous arcane and familiar ingredients: peppermint or ginger for stomach problems, rhubarb for constipation, ginger for nausea, and opium for just about everything else. As a candy, Chase replaced the bad tasting ingredients with tasty flavorings that would appeal to grown-ups and kids alike. The ingredients are pretty much the same as stick candy or Turkish delight, but the texture was both smooth and chalky. Customers report they used NECCOs as a practice communion wafer and their grandmothers used them as a sugary sedative to keep the grandchildren quiet at church.

NECCO Wafer: Problem/Solution

Chase’s lozenges were exceptionally popular, which created a problem. The production process was so slow, he got further and further behind the orders. Besides, making the lozenges was tedious, exact work: according to Scientific American of 1868, the “plastic” sugar was rolled into a sheet then cut, lozenge after lozenge, like crackers from dough. The batter was temperamental, it had to be just the right consistency, measured and pressed to make close-to-exact doses, with as little handling as possible.”

So, in 1847, Oliver Chase developed a lozenge cutting machine where he cranked dough onto plates with lozenge-size indentations. The lozenges tumbled out in uniform sizes as quickly as his hand could turn.


Oliver Chase Making Wafers on His New Machine

Chase called the result the “Chase Lozenge” or “Hub wafer” – one with a glazed and the other with a transparent wrapper. “Hub”, by the way, was a nickname for “Boston”.  Later, the confection was called the Necco Wafer. For the first time, candy-makers could quickly produce consistent pieces and medicine-makers create predictable doses. Chase’s machine was revolutionary.

What Other Candies Were People Eating When Chase Created the NECCO Wafer?

Grown-ups and kids were eating other candies, but few survive today. One was Turkish delight also called Turkish “paste,” which actually resemble fruit squares and an invention from around 1805 – the Gum Drop. Others include the Gibralter, made in the nation’s first commercial candy company in 1806; pulled creams, which evolved in the mid-1800s; hand-pulled sticks which go back who-knows-how long…probably 1600s; and sugar plums, a broad range of candies with a tiny nuts or seeds surrounded with sugar such as Cream Filberts (late 1700s) and sugared or Jordan Almonds (ancient Romans).

What distinguished Chase was his use of machinery to make the candy, so it was every-ready to enjoy.

    Turkish Delight, Rose, Assorted Fruit    Buy Traditional Multicolored Gum Drops, Harpers Ferry West Virginia, true treats historic candy,

Turkish delight                                                                         Cream Filberts                                                                     Gum Drops

Romance and the NECCO Wafer

Oliver soon partnered with his brother Silas to make a sugar pulverizing machine that, according to their patent application of 1850 “…consists of a cylindrical vessel or mortar made of caste iron or other suitable material and of such thickness and dimensions as circumstances may require.”

Almost twenty years later, another Chase-inspired change was on the way, this one by Daniel Chase. During the 19th century “conversation lozenges” were popular in England, where little sayings were hand-printed on the candy. Some were romantic, such as “Love me” while others inspired precisely the opposite. The temperance movement was behind many of those, with such sobering comments as: “Drink is the Ruin of Man,” and “Sobriety is the way to riches.” In the U.S., Daniel invented a “motto-making” machine that printed sayings quickly and directly on heart-shaped candies, focused entirely on matters of the heart, not the liver. The result is called “Sweethearts.”

Sweetheart Candy – the Original

As the candy industry grew, the confectioner’s role seemed to have taken on greater stature.  In 1912, the Americana, an encyclopedia, says:

“Of course, we know that in the early days, the art of manufacturing confectionery was confined almost exclusively to the apothecaries and physicians, both of whom made use of these sweets in their attempts to disguise the unpleasant characteristic of their medicines…During the 19th century the confectionery trade has experienced its greatest development for it is since the dawn of that century that it has become what it is to-day, one of the world’s great business enterprises. In the making of this transition, the druggist has not ceased to be a factor in the trade. He still requires his medicated candies but, in this respect, he has become a purchaser…”

The Americana also noted that:

“…candy usually was confined to such ordinary products as the old fashion stick candy, sugar plums, and the ordinary molasses candy…In 1846, Oliver R. Chase, who with his brother, formed the firm Chase & Company, invented a machine for the making of lozenges…In 1866, a further innovation in lozenge innovation was produced by Daniel G. Chase. This was a machine for printing on candies and it was to those invention that the well-remembered conversation lozenges owe its existence… Since that day, the history of the confectionary trade has been a constant record of development.”

 Packing Necco Wafers Mid-1900s

The Necco Wafer Goes to War (Or does it?)

The Chases may have ushered in the industrialization of candy, but there’s more. It’s possible, and I underscore possible, that the Chase Brothers sent Oliver’s lozenge to the Union soldiers. This distinction is relevant because many in-the-know people such as reenactors, historic Web sites, and NPR’s quiz show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me indicate this exchange of sweets definitely happened. I called the New England Confectionary Company for confirmation after I failed to find original sourcing. A young, chipper-sounding employee from their outsourced PR department merrily informed me that the Necco was not in the war. Silly, silly NPR.

Here’s my opinion. Seeing how friends, family, and businesses sent candy to Civil War soldiers during the war, why wouldn’t Oliver Chase and his popular lozenge be among them? So, did they send or didn’t they? My vote is yes.  Either way, Admiral Byrd definitely did take 2 ½ tons of the lozenges on his expedition to the South Pole and during World War Two, when Hershey was busy with the D – Ration, the U.S. sent Neccos to troops because they were “practically indestructible”

Necco Wafer Eaten by Soldiers in WWII

The NECCO Candy Company – Moving On and Up

Over the years, the company underwent many changes. After building a factory on Melcher Street in Boston, the Chase brothers opened a “Western” branch in Chicago. It was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1872, the Boston factory burned down as well. The company rebounded, and in 1901, joined the other companies to rise up as the New England Confectionery Company. All went well as the company opened a factory in South Boston, then one in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1927 and where I went to buy candy decades later.

NECCO- Boston Early 1900s

NECCO- Boston Early 1900s


Necco Chimney in Cambridge Massachusetts


Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, Clark Bars, Mary Janes, Slapstick & Squirrel Nut Zippers

But, as fate would have it – and does with so many companies – it changed hands in the corporate style of hand-changing…too many names to bother mentioning. At one point, in a move to stay afloat in the ever-changing world of vintage candy, NECCO bought out other candies. Their mission was simple: Be the provider of retro, old time, and vintage candy–WHATEVER you want to call it! Their selections went onto include Squirrel Nut Zippers, Clark Bars, Mary Janes, Candy Buttons, Banana Chews, Canada Mints,  Necco Wafers, Slapstick, Sweethearts and Sky Bar…among others.

Image: UK Daily News

In a story sad for all of us – the NECCO factory moved out of Kendall Square in Cambridge where it had a time-honored home. The building became the high budget, albeit soulless, property of MIT. NECCO resituated in Revere Massachusetts….just down the road… then…went bust.

                NECCO Last Stop in Masschusetts, Revere


The End that Isn’t (Fortunately)

While the NECCO company went under, not all the NECCO candies went with it. The Necco Wafer is now being made by Spangler, itself a venerable company with an impressively long history starting in 1906. A related Candy Button is available, and the Clark Bar (made by Davied Clark, maker of Teaberry Gum) is now made by the Boyer Company maker of Mallo Cup and comes in two shapes – cup and traditional bar. Our version of Canada Mints really is made in Canada where they were invented (no surprise!) and Mary Janes seem to be sliding on and off the retail radar since last year. We love them all – for their memories and their tastes.


You Know Uncle Sam – Wait ’til You Meet AUNT SAMMY!

Aunt Sammy: Shaping the Candies, Cakes & Wholesome Foods of Appalachia

You likely know Uncle Sam but probably not Aunt Sammy. So – allow me. She helped put Appalachian food on your table and mountain confections in your mouth!  In 1926, she became a welcome part of the Appalachian and other farm, coal mine, and more general rural communities. She provided advice, news items and recipes on air and in print, many sent from thousands of listeners in rural communities, answering today’s question: WHAT IS real American cooking? She first appeared in 1926 as Uncle Sam’s (yes, that Uncle Sam) wife or sister (it isn’t entirely clear) – a true flesh and blood household advisor. Well, sort, of.

Who was Aunt Sammy? All about Betty Crocker & Friends: Candies, Casseroles, and Cake Mixes

To understand Aunt Sammy – and her relationship to Uncle Sam and the Appalachian homemaker – it’s important to know about Betty Crocker, Ann Pillsbury, Aunt Jemima, and the rising presence of radios in people’s homes in the early 1900s. Betty Crocker’s “life” as it was, started in the early 1920s, when General Mills created the woman who wasn’t. Betty Crocker was an even-keeled helpful household advisor and personality, designed to be as real as you and me. Betty had her own radio show, newspaper column, endorsements, and presence on the American landscape – but was actually played by a variety of actresses for decades. She was never outed and, even today, many consider her an actual person.

Marjorie Housted – One of the authors and voices called Betty Crocker


One of the many Betty Crocker faces


Betty Crocker wasn’t alone. She was joined by plenty of others including Ann Pillsbury, Aunt Jemima, and Carnation’s Mary Blake, all women who weren’t. These women also represented the interests of large businesses, promoting everything from flours and baking soda (using the sponsor’s brands) to cake mixes, where the company did it all. Their audience was middle class women, homemakers, and domestic help. And then there was Aunt Sammy!

Tune In Appalachia! Recipes, Advice, and A Good Friend on the Radio

Like Betty, Aunt Sammy’s presence rose up in the 1920s when radio’s rise in the American landscape was meteoric to say the least.  At first, about 10,000 radios were on the American landscape, mostly homemade by radio hobbyist. Within five years, roughly 7.5 million people had a radio at home. For rural homemakers of Appalachia, radios were a link to the outside world, fueled by batteries, much more reliable than electricity, even in storms. Remember: rural homemakers were isolated on farms where they literarily made the homes, in charge of sewing clothes, growing, harvesting, and cooking food, raising kids, mending fences, and repairing whatever problem arose. Company? Little company, no television, no public transportation, and no newspapers. Even if they had newspapers, many of these women couldn’t read.

One of the friendly voices to break through the isolation was “Aunt Sammy” the wife of Uncle Sam. Unlike other advisors who represented the interests of corporations and, like Betty Crocker, focused on the middle class, Aunt Sammy represented the interests of the United Sates Department of Agriculture. Her audience was rural and town-based and her message was about many things, primary among them food. Good, wholesome, and economical food and using specific measurements and hygienic processes. In short, Aunt Sammy was bringing to rural communities’ recipes for better, healthier living – a first for a demographic others ignored.


Ruth Van Deman, one of the authors of Aunt Sammy’s Recipes

Listeners regularly tuned into Aunt Sammy’s productions which first aired five days a week in 1926, then called a variety of names – “Housekeeper’s Half-Hour” and “Aunt Sammy” among them. It was one of the first radio shows with regular characters, such as Ebenezer, an uncle; Billy, a nephew; Percy DeWillington, a fussy eater; and the Nosy Neighbor. Aunt Sammy was represented by 30 different women at 30 different stations – a total of 150 actresses over the years. They shared the same script, but, unlike Betty & company who were relentlessly the same, they had different regional accents. The reason: to gain the trust of listeners who welcomed them into their homes. Even the content was driven by letters sent by listeners.

By 1927, more than a million women were tuning into the program and had sent 60,000 letters seeking advice. If the questions were pertinent and interesting enough, they were raised on air. If not, the listeners received a personal letter in response. While the program covered a range of subjects, food was among the greatest places of concern.

Listening to Aunt Sammy of the Radio – Late 1920s


Hey Appalachia – Exercise Your Ingredients!

While radio was a miracle, and a useful miracle at that, it had flaws. It was scratchy and, at times, incoherent, a deficit when following recipe instructions. One production demonstrates the problem well, when a young husband was trying to copy a recipe for his wife. Unfortunately, the radio signals had crossed, and two shows – one, apparently an exercise show for men, and the other, Aunt Sammy, wove together. Still, the husband persisted, diligently taking notes, connections crisscrossing, and he ended up with the following instructions: “Hands on hips, place one cup of flour on the shoulders, raise knees and depress toes and mix thoroughly with one half-cup of milk…inhale quickly one-half teaspoon of baking powder, lower the legs and mash two hard-boiled eggs in a sieve…lie flat on the floor and roll the white of an egg backward and forward…”

Uncle Sam in Appalachia: Just Like a Man

As a supplement to the radio productions, Aunt Sammy joined the ranks of those producing cookbook/pamphlets in 1927. Simply called Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes, the instructions were simple, easy-to-follow and deemed fool-proof.  Aunt Sammy promoted the cookbook on- air, saying:  “By the way, some of you have begun to listen in quite recently. You may not have copies of the loose-leaf Radio Cook Book Uncle Sam is sending to homemakers. I want to give Uncle Sam all the credit due him, but the cookbook was not his idea at all. After he saw how neat it was, and how easily extra pages could be added, he waxed enthusiastic — he really did. His only regret was that he didn’t originate the idea himself. Isn’t that just like a man?”


Whatever Became of Aunt Sammy?

Within the first six months of publication, the USDA received 41,000 requests for the Aunt Sammy’s publication and soon had printed 100,000 copies. All were gone within the year. In 1931, a new edition called Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes Revised was released – also the first cookbook printed in Braille.  In 1931, Aunt Sammy also instructed listeners in authentic traditional Chinese cooking techniques, helping to improve the quality of Chinese-American food prepared by home cooks.  Her show continued to educate and stimulate rural homemakers in Appalachia and other areas through 1944.


Want to try Aunt Sammy’s recipes? You can find them here: Aunt Sammy’s radio recipes: United States. Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

TIRED OF THE SCREEN? Sit back, relax, and listen to Aunt Sammy, and get great food ideas as you do!: (2) Selections from Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes and USDA Favorites by Ruth van Deman | Full Audio Book – YouTube



We picked out a few easy-to-make options for Aunt Sammy’s fun foods – if you’re not up for cooking, you can get a variation from us. Her recipe book covers everything from meats to vegetables with plenty of helpful advice!

Pralines Recipe– A Classic

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups pecan nut meats

Make a sirup out of 3 cups of the sugar and the cream. Cara- melize the other cup of sugar by melting it in an iron pan and stir- ring constantly with the back of a spoon. Into it pour all the sirup at one time, stirring constantly and rapidly. Add the salt. Boil the mixture to the soft-ball stage without stirring. Pour into a fiat pan and cool. Beat to a creamy consistency and add the nuts. Form into fiat, round cakes about 3 inches in diameter on a waxed paper. This amount makes about 20 cakes. During the creaming process the nuts must be added before the mixture shows signs of hardening. As this candy is to be in the form of round cakes, and not in a mass, work quickly to keep the candy from hardening before the cakes are placed on the waxed paper.

Try True Treats Pralines made in a Texas-based pecan plantation.

Sugared Popcorn Recipe – A Cousin to Kettle Corn

  • Sugared Popcorn
  • 1-1/2  cups sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 quarts freshly popped corm

Cook the sugar, water, and salt until the sirup forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, or until a candy thermometer registers 238° F. Remove from the fire. Beat with a spoon until it is creamy. Drop in the popcorn and Stir quickly until each kernel is coated with sugar. Put on a greased platter and separate the grains of corn. Cook the sugar, water, and salt until the sirup forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, or until a candy thermometer registers 238° F. Remove from the fire. Beat with a spoon until it is creamy. Drop in the popcorn and stir quickly until each kernel is coated with sugar. Put on a greased platter and separate the grains of corn.

Turkish Paste Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons gelatin.
  • 1/2 cup cold water.
  • 1 pound sugar.
  • 1/2 cup hot water.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice.
  • Green coloring.
  • Mint flavoring.
  • 1 cup finely chopped nuts

Soften the gelatin in the cold water for 5 minutes. Bring the hot water and sugar to the boiling point. Add the salt and gelatin, Stir until the gelatin has dissolved, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the fire and when cool add the lemon juice, coloring, and mint flavoring. Stir in the nuts and allow the mixture to &and until it begins to thicken. Stir again before pouring into a wet pan and have the layer of paste about one inch thick. Let &and overnight in a cool place. Moisten a sharp knife in boiling water, cut the candy in cubes, and roll in powdered sugar.

The paste is 1/2 Turkish delight (circa 900 CE) and 1/2 Gum Drop which used Turkish delight as a prototype (originated around 1805, this version likely 1860s).

Nut Brittle Recipe

  • 2 cups granulated sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • 2 cups nuts.
  • ¼ teaspoon soda.

Heat the sugar gradually in a clean smooth skillet. Stir constantly with the bowl of the spoon until a golden sirup is formed. Remove from the fire and Stir in quickly the salt, soda, and vanilla. Pour the sirup over a layer of nuts in a greased pan. When cold, crack into small pieces.

The basic peanut brittle. Ours is from around the same time but uses corn syrup (an original American sweetener) and butter.

 Parisian Sweets Recipe

  • 1/2 pound figs.
  • 1/2 pound nut meats.
  • 1/2 pound dried prunes or seedless raisins.

Wash, pick over, and stem the fruits. Put them, with the nut meats, through a meat chopper, using a medium knife. Mix thoroughly. Roll out to a thickness of about one-half inch on a board dredged with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into small pieces; or make balls and roll them in confectioners’ sugar. If these sweets are to be kept for some tune, they should be put in a tin box or a tight jar.

Amazing – reminiscent of the early Middle Eastern fig cakes.