Children’s Candy

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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children’s candy was once a rarity. Because sugar was expensive, few children could expect much more than the occasional “sugarplum” at Christmas. See sugarplums. However, new sources and lower prices for sugar in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as well as the introduction of new machine production techniques and new packaging, storage, and transportation technologies, transformed candy from a local and handmade product to a regional, mass-produced commodity.

In the United States, the lowest end of the manufactured candy trade came to be known as “penny candy.” It was cheap, plentiful, and made to appeal to a child’s eye. Licorice, marshmallows, suckers, kisses, caramels, jellies, and more could be had at the candy shops found around every corner, several pieces to the penny. In the golden age of penny candy, from about 1880 to the early 1930s, children were significant buyers of candy for their own immediate consumption, and penny candies made for and sold directly to children were a significant portion of the candy market. See penny candy.