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How many of your happiest childhood memories involve guilt-free indulgence in candy? Chocolate bars, homemade fudge, cotton candy at the county fair, jellybeans and all-day suckers are the comfort food of the young, and it’s easy to be nostalgic about enjoying sweet treats without any concern for the consequences.
Fortunately, collectors can enjoy the pursuit of candy without actually eating any. Postcards show that the attitude toward sweets was very different in the early 1900s, many people believing that they were actually good for children (and that it was healthy for children to be plump).
If there’s a gene for a raging sweet tooth, my family certainly had it. In fact, my very existence can be traced to my grandfather’s urge for a stick of candy. If he hadn’t gone into town to buy some, he might not have met the friends who later hooked him up with my grandmother. The rest is history, but candy was always a reward in my childhood. The scarcity of sugar during World War II made it even more highly prized.
If nostalgia alone isn’t enough motivation to seek out postcards about candy, the postcards themselves are. Candy represents pleasure, and the advertising often reflects this.
Nor are the old “goodies” particularly scarce. The best source of information is “American Advertising Postcards, Sets and Series, 1890 to 1920” by Frederic and Mary Megson, copyright 1985. This choice reference book devotes more than seven pages to “confectionery,” including candy stores and ice cream parlors.
Some of the names in the Megsons’ book are still familiar today: Hershey Chocolates, Fralinger’s Taffy, Ghirardelli’s Chocolates, Huyler’s Chocolates, and Cracker Jack. Others are long forgotten: Greenfield’s Chocolate Sponge, Hildreth’s Velvet Candy, and Mirror Candies, as examples.
Hershey was by far the largest publisher of postcards as advertising, although quite a few only picture the buildings and grounds around their Pennsylvania factory. Many of these are narrow black and white postcards. They’re not directly related to their chocolate, nor are they as entertaining as those of some other advertisers. Hershey continued to make postcards in the modern era for their many visitors, including continental size (4 inches by 6 inches) of candy production and candy bars.
Some of the highlights of a candy collection would be: the Cracker Jack Bears (set of 16), Fralinger’s Taffy’s series of nursery rhymes, and Huyler’s Candies’ Indian chiefs, girl graduates and girl golfers, to name just a few.
My favorites are the interiors of candy shops and confectioneries, which also had soda fountains. Almost everything pictured in the early 20th century shops is collectible today.
That includes marble topped counters, caned, bent wood and metal chairs, glass-fronted bins, elaborate soda dispensers, and beautiful ceramic and glass jars. Even empty candy boxes from this era are worth a collector’s attention.
Seemingly unrelated scenes were also distributed to call attention to candy products. If there’s advertising on the back, the card is a keeper.
It’s still possible to put together an impressive album of candy cards, some more enjoyable than a sweet treat and definitely longer lasting. ?
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Barbara Andrews has contributed postcard articles to Antique Trader for more than 35 years. She’s an author of women’s fiction, working on her 50th book in partnership with her daughter. She is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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