Behind the Scenes of BREATHE: Retro Candy from 1918

October 31, 2018


Happy All-Hallow’s Eve! Americans love Halloween—the pumpkins, the cool weather, the Halloween parties with friends, and especially all the Halloween candy. Though Halloween had come to the US by 1918 thanks to the influx of Irish immigrants, Virginia and the Jackson family probably wouldn’t have celebrated it. At least, not how we do now. In fact, trick-or-treating wouldn’t become popular in America until the 1930s. But they definitely had candy. Boy, did they have candy. Even if people were rationing sugar and candy so that more could be sent overseas to the doughboys, it was still a popular pick-me-up for the war-weary folks back at home, too. Did you see my post last week on Shane Confectionery’s American Chocolate Fund for U.S. Forces in France? If not, you can go HERE.


Today, I want to focus on some of the popular candies from 1918.  We have a store here in the Phoenix Metro area called Sweeties Candy of Arizona which is a great place to find retro, specialty, and bulk candy. My friend turned me on to this store while she was stocking her daughter’s quinceanera candy bar. I went on a hunt to find vintage candy that would have been available in 1918. This is what I found (pictured above):


~Cherry Mash

~Rock candy

~Peppermint buttons

~Lemon drops

~Goo Goo Clusters

~Pearson’s Nut Goodies

~Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews


~Necco Wafers

~Mary Jane

~Goetze’s caramels


I bought all of this candy and sampled it. I take my research very seriously, dear reader. The lemon drops, no surprise, were my favorite out of this peanut-heavy bunch. My second favorite was a tie between the Cherry Mash (I love chocolate and cherries together) and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. Come to find out the Peanut Chews have both a Philly and a special WWI connection.

The Goldenberg Candy Company was originally based out of northeastern Philadelphia until they were acquired in 2003 by another candy-maker. Goldenberg Candy Company’s signature candy, Peanut Chews played an important part in World War 1. Invented in 1917, Peanut Chews are a delicious mixture of peanuts, molasses, and chocolate. This high protein, high calorie treat was perfect as a ration bar for servicemen. The molasses even added a few extra vitamins and minerals. Though it was originally made for the U.S. military, the candy was so popular with the troops that they continued to ask for it after the war was won. Like Makenzie in TANABATA WISH, I love factory tours and used to watch UNWRAPPED on the Food Network religiously. If you want to see how Peanut Chews are made, HERE is a behind-the-scenes look.    


An interesting personal connection for me: Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews were bought out by Just Born, Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 2003. Just Born, Inc. makes several iconic American candies including Mike & Ikes, Hot Tamales, and Peeps. Just Born, Inc. will always have a special place in my heart, because in 1998 I visited their plant, took a fun behind-the-scenes tour, got to eat a Peep right off the assembly line, and conducted a fascinating interview with one of their leading food scientists. It was at the beginning of the edible glitter craze, and their food scientists were busy experimenting with how to work this new culinary invention into their Peeps line. Two years later, this field trip would become my very first paid writing work. New Moon Magazine for Girls has since gone out of business, but I credit them with giving me my start in kid lit.


What about you? What’s your favorite vintage candy on this list or in general? Is there a regional favorite I should be sure to try when I visit your state? Let me know. This is my favorite kind of research.

There you go. A sweet, behind-the-scenes peek into BREATHE. Want to see how chocolate and confections weave into my story? You can buy the paperback version of BREATHE HERE and the eBook HERE.


Photo by Tara Hunter of Historical Echoes

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