There is something invaluable, if not mystical, about an item crafted by human hand. The act of touching something to shape it, of tensing sinew sets to swing a hammer or twist a screw—the act of real, physical work—is something that defines not only our professions and national identities, but also our species. At our place of work, we utilize the totality of ourselves, and, we’d like to think, the totality of our heritage. Candy-making requires the confectioner to use every single ounce of self: to ignite the imagination like a fiery kettle stove, to squeeze poetry from the soul like icing from a pastry bag. To hand-pull taffy for hours like nautical rope causes each pore to widen, to calculate cooking times and anticipate the rise of soufflé takes the attention of an umpire.
When we began our work at the Franklin Fountain, we were little more than intellectuals with a zealous passion for history that has been with us since our childhoods. That has not changed. What has happened, though, is that the craft continues to come to us. We don’t know from where. Not exactly. We can only figure that it came from the gracious rumblings of the Universe. But come it did. It came as any magic does, in clumps of coincidences, from applicants arrived from afar carrying with them missing jigsaw pieces to help us with our quest. We strove to bring back to life a craft that remained only in shadow and fading ink. We still do. It is a craft that, arguably, has been with us since the dawn of our species. Indeed, it may have catalyzed humankind to evolve in the way that it has. Confectionery is an art form that roots into the dimmest centuries of our past and the furthest curves of our globe.
Yet today it is but a ghost, arriving only to the flamboyant séances of the wealthy, or, in contrast, in too-bright, unimaginative candy bar lines composed of processed sugar nothingness. Only a few people are versed in the history of this industry; their numbers are few and scattered. But it is a craft that is with us. The handiwork of our forerunners has changed the prose of our genetic sentences. So, for us, when we concoct our various bon-bons, it is not only with an earned pride, but it is also with a sense of journey and discovery. When we reconstruct recipes from pages that haven’t seen daylight in decades or centuries, it is like putting together a dinosaur fossil bone by bone. With every action that we take, we feel the hum of history. With brushstroke that leaves a sweet paint on our Easter Eggs, we feel the paint begin to dry somewhere in a Romanian field in the fourteenth century. With every Turkish Delight that we craft, we can feel its powdery sugar sprinkle the fine lace kerchief of women in the Eminönü bazaar of Constantinople having left the lavish shop of famed confectioner Bekir Effendi in 1776.
One of the most thrilling factors of our enterprise is that we get to conduct our passion in our home city of Philadelphia, a city that has richer confectionery history than perhaps any other on the planet. We get to take the reigns of a candy factory that has had the longest continuous run than any other in the city, and, as far as we can ascertain, the nation. So, in order to better educate our readership about the importance that this task means to us, we thought that we would chronicle, in an abridged sort of way, candy making history, both in Philadelphia and abroad. We will start with the City of Brotherly Love’s homegrown culinary savants and move on to the more global span of our candy heritage.
Since its colonial days, Philadelphia has been known for its sweets. Ships would bring in sugar, cocoa, and various exotic fruits, spices, and nuts to port on Philadelphia’s waterfront (the goods were grown in the West Indies, West Africa, the Mediterranean, and East India) and they would be sold in retail shops on High Street (presently Market St.) and Arch Street. The sugar was taken to a large refinery alongside the Delaware, and the cocoa was ground by stone wheel at “The Governor’s Mill” later known as “The Globe Mill” in Northern Liberties (originally this mill was contracted to William Penn in 1682, but the rights to it were later purchased by Benjamin Jackson in 1757, who sold the milled cocoa, along with ground mustard and cayenne pepper, at his store in Letitia Court). Molasses was created as a by-product of the sugar refining process, and many early candies were made from it.
Philadelphia’s confectionery history can be traced, roughly, to the late eighteenth century. At this time, the city was roiled with lashing political dynamics as well an influx of goods from opening trades routes. As American colonists became embroiled with the hot fervor of revolutionary thought, the dinner menus of prominent taverns changed to either appeal to rebel palates, or to placate the appetites of loyalists who favored traditional English meals. When the American Revolution came into full swing with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the culinary world of the city of Philadelphia went haywire. British occupancy of the city sent many businesses into disarray and collapse. Naval blockades forced gourmands to seek new delicacies since old favorites were discontinued due to a much-shortened ingredient list. Philadelphia food historian Mary Anne Hines notes that “food is in baldest terms a barometer of social change.” (1,19.) With this in mind, Hines, along with many colleagues, embarked on extraordinary detective work to peer through dusty “newspapers, diaries, and manuscript household books”, and uncovered that the winds of change were blowing fiercely in Philadelphia’s culinary landscape.
Several Philadelphia confectioners rose to stardom amidst the climate of change (the Parkinson confectionery dynasty may be some of the most influential among them). They were insightful individuals who established themselves early in the scene of American cuisine. George Parkinson had opened a restaurant on 180 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia called “Pennsylvania Arms” (Chestnut street was renumbered sometime in the early 1850s, so the actual site today is closer to 7th and Chestnut), and next door his wife had run a smaller confectionery beginning in 1818. It didn’t take very long for Eleanor’s business to flourish fantastically; within a few years George had merged the two businesses and was working more closely with his wife. Each understood that confectionery held an enchanting quality, and that being an able confectioner meant that an artfulness was required in addition to a keen understanding of the technical aspects of the craft. Eleanor gained expertise in making boiled sugar treats, laudanum-tinged lozenges, ornamental cakes with Grecian-inspired architecture, various ices and liquers, flavored waters, novel gum-paste ornaments, myriad syrups and jellies, citrus marmalades, berry compotes, baked and sweetened breads, artificial yeasts, fancy biscquits, cakes, rolls, muffins, tarts, pies, and a host of other items.
In 1843, Eleanor Parkinson published a cookbook entitled “Pastry-Cook and Baker: Plain and Practical Directions for Making Confectionery and Pastry and for Baking” which set to paper many of the recipes which she was locally famed for. The Parkinson family would find that their culinary genius had a hereditary successor in their son, James. James followed closely his mother’s skill as she baked, and he practiced the craft alongside her until he had mastered it in his own right. In time, he was to run the confectionery on 180 Chestnut Street and would concoct his own recipes, experimenting with flavors and ingredients that were uniquely American. It was James Parkinson who added flecks of actual vanilla beans to his vanilla ice cream, so that those who dined upon it could see that it was fresh and pure (diverting from the egg-based ice cream stylings of the French), and it was James Parkinson who claimed to be the first person to employ a body dressed up as Kris Kringle to welcome in guests to his shop, and the first to have St. Nicholas painted on an advertising sign above his store. James opened up a café-restaurant nearby, as well as a catering business. He was often challenged to cookery competitions, and each time he remained the champion (he was known to make sorbets with fancy Hungarian wines). 1874 proved to be a crucial year in his career, for it was a year leading up to the Centennial celebration. To commemorate the festivities, Parkinson penned an essay arguing for the existence of a uniquely American cuisine. It was also in this year that he, along with a gentleman by the name of Edward Heinz, founded “The Confectioners’ Journal”, a trade magazine printed monthly that specialized in the candy-making craft. Parkinson was the editor-in-chief of the outfit, and authored essays about American ingredients (like one extolling the virtues of the American raspberry) and he helped Philadelphia confectioners to bridge business connections, develop a more cohesive trade mentality, and highlight their individual enterprises. Parkinson remained editor until his death in 1895, but the magazine continued on throughout the mid-twentieth century and it helped to congeal and unify the candy-making craft on a nationwide scale.
Another Philadelphia confectioner who gained prominence in the nineteenth century was Eliza Leslie. Eliza was born on a cold February morning in 1787 in a household at Second and Market Streets in Philadelphia. She was the daughter of Frank Leslie, a well-respected clockmaker who ran a business with a man by the name of Issac Price; he was also close personal friends with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In 1793, the Leslie family moved to London, England, where Mr. Leslie was doing business. They lived on Edgeware Road, not far at all from grassy Hyde Park or the stony buildings of Cambridge University. Back in Philadelphia, Issac Price had been mis-managing the company funds, and by the year 1800 Mr. Leslie needed to sail back home with his family aboard the Washington to attempt to straighten our the financial mishaps. Unfortunately, at this time the young republic of The United States was mired in a quasi-war with the even-younger government of France, and the home-bound ship had sailed past the tricolor flag of a French vessel. The Washington was fired upon, and Eliza, along with her siblings and parents, were ushered beneath the deck for safety. Charles Leslie, Eliza’s younger brother, noted that the musket-fire sounded like a hailstorm against the ship’s side. The injured ship sailed for Lisbon, Portugal, where it was to dock for repairs for the interval of a few months.
Eliza’s young mind raced with excitement of pirate stories and of mutinous shipmates during the turmoil. In Lisbon, the Leslies lived in a small house next to a Portugeuse family, which Eliza and her siblings spied on through a hole in the wall hid by a picture frame. Eliza took careful note of their cooking habits and cuisine, and stored it in her uncanny memory bank. Eliza also took in other sites and customs of the foreign culture, including the street vendors who sold goat’s milk and treats, a woman who cooked chestnuts over a kettle fire, and the taste of thin-peeled Portugeuse oranges that grew in a garden by their dwelling.
In time, the Leslies’ sailed back, but Mr. Leslie was in poor health and, once back in Philadelphia, passed away. Widowed, Mrs. Leslie ran a boarding house, and young Eliza traded stories with the boarders, cooked for them, and sketched some of their likenesses. Mrs. Leslie picked up on Eliza’s cooking abilities and decided to send her to Mrs. Goodfellow’s cooking school, where Eliza was to hone her skills in domestic economics and cookery. Mrs. Goodfellow was an early feminist and suffragist, and Eliza absorbed these ideas throughout her education there. Over time, Eliza became increasingly adept at making sweet treats and confectionery, and she collected her recipes as years went by. In 1828, she published these as “Seventy-Five Receipts,” a novel cookbook of its time. It was a tremendous success, and saw several re-issues. Housewives across the new nation began to look to Eliza for culinary inspiration. She continued to publish several different dessert and savory recipes and garnered a nation-wide status as master confectioner. But this was not the end of either her skill set or her meteoric rise to celebrity. Eliza also published fiction, including moral tales for young girls, comedic sketches, and ghost stories. She became a star figure in the American literary scene, and published a literary journal entitled “The Gift” (which was one of the first to publish Edgar Allan Poe) and “Miss Leslie’s Journal” which excelled at its time of publication for an innovative color printing process. American confectionery and cookery benefited from Miss Leslie’s genius, as did American letters. Eliza Leslie passed away in 1858 in Gloucester, New Jersey.
In order to more fully understand the arc of candymaking history, we must take into consideration how utilitarianism and industrialization changed the candymaking process in America. Let’s focus on two Philadelphia candymaking equipment manufacturers who played crucial roles in how ice cream and candy was made and served in the world: Valentine Clad and Thomas Mills.
Valentine Clad was born in 1827 in the town of Mollan in the Alsace region of France. Valentine had a round face and chin, a slightly crooked nose, gray eyes, silver slivers in his hair, and he stood at five feet and seven inches. He was a tinsmith by trade, and eventually made his way to America. Beginning in 1856, he began to make clear toy candy moulds from cast iron and zinc, employing sculptors to make highly-defined moulds of various popular shapes like sailing ships, bow-tied march hares, and proud antlered stags. Valentine was drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War, and after his tour he sold tin cookware, ice cream making machinery, conical ice cream scoops, and candy-making tools. By 1892, his sons Louis and Eaugens entered the business and in 1896 he incorporated his industry as V. Clad and Sons. Valentine would sail to and from Europe several times to keep abreast with what the Europeans were doing with their confectionery machinery and to see their candy-making craft and style, and to re-connect with his European roots and family.
The direct competition for the Clads in the way of clear toy candy molds were brothers Thomas and George Mills. The Mills brothers were from the town of Melrose in Scotland, which was strewn with ancient homes and the yellow-stoned Melrose Abbey. The brothers came to America in 1864, and their widowed mother re-married to a man named John Gardiner, who had purchased European candy-making equipment and opened a business in 1851. He had instructed the two young men on how to operate the machinery. The brothers were capable machinists themselves, and by 1864 they were expanding the candy-making line under the name Thomas Mills & Brother, and they created a wide variety of clear toy candy molds of their own. By 1867 it is said that they were the largest confectioners’ tool making facility in the United States, operating in an entire building on Market Street. They produced an array of clear toy candy shapes in many different sizes, and also made machinery for every other conceivable facet of large scale candy production. With their engineering know-how, they developed machines that could do the tasks that it had formally took many human candy-makers to do, and some of the new machines were even operated by steam, including the drum-like revolving panning machines that they had produced. The industrial revolution that was happening across the country had surely affected the confectionery industry as much as anything else, if not more so.
Still another Philadelphia-based confectioner for us to call our attention to is Mr. Stephen Whitman–a Quaker by religious inclination who, as an especially industrious young man of nineteen years of age, started a confectionery and fruiterer shop by the Philadelphia waterfront. Young Whitman had a pleasant and affable personality and he became friendly with sailors on leave and their wives, for whom chocolates were purchased. The sailors, in keeping with newly bound friendships, would often bring to Stephen some fresh and exotic fruits, nuts, and cocoa beans from their travels and cargo. With these supplies, Whitman was able to create confections in a European style, a rarity for Americans and a novel experience to the pedestrian. His business grew by leaps and bounds in popularity, especially in the northeast, and by 1854 he began to sell prepackaged candies, including boxes of sugar plums arrayed in an ornate box bedecked with the image of rose blossoms and curlicues.
Before the Civil War began, Stephen was advertising his chocolates and confections in the print press. One year after the Civil War’s conclusion in 1866 Whitman bought an entire building for chocolate production at Twelfth and Market Streets. The operation was known to be state of the art insofar as chocolate making machinery was concerned, and different floors of the buildings were delegated specific tasks in the process of cocoa refinement and cooking. In the year 1877, one year following the Centennial Celebration, “Instantaneous Chocolates” were introduced in tin boxes. As decades progressed, Stephen’s son became involved in the business, and he and his father introduced a new item into the market by the year 1912: The Whitman Sampler. The box was to resemble the intricate needlework of an embroidery sample, and it encased a mixed batch of chocolates wrapped up in cellophane. Their business continued to prosper, and when the first World War began, the chocolates were donated to fighting infantry men who were nostalgic for American-made sweets. To this day Whitman Samplers are still sold in numerous stores throughout the country, and their fine taste is associated with the highest caliber of quality.
Another candy-maker of note was the chocolatier Henry Oscar Wilbur, who, prior to 1865, was the owner of a hardware, dry goods, and stove company in Vineland, New Jersey. After the Civil War had ended, Wilbur had the opportunity to partner with a man by the name of Samuel Croft, who ran a confectionery in Philadelphia. They were to operate under a signpost bearing the names of “Croft & Allen” at 125 North Third Street, only blocks away from the waterfront. Their business was met with stupendous success, and before long they were to find new headquarters at 1225 Market Street. By 1884, the two owners arrived at the decision to bifurcate the business into two divergent branches — one was to manufacture and sell cocoa and chocolates, which Wilbur was to oversee; and the other branch was to manufacture and sell hard candies and molasses, which Croft was to oversee along with a third party, Mr. Allen. Three years later, Wilbur and his sons, who partnered with him in his business, once again found the need to have bigger factory space, and this time they moved to Third, New, and Bread Streets (the signage for Wilbur’s Chocolate can still be read in fading letters on the side of the building which stands to this day). H.O. Wilbur was to retire at the age of 59, and his two sons, William Nelson Wilbur and Henry L. Wilbur, overtook the business. Tragically, Henry was to die when he was thrown from his horse on a friend’s estate in Chester county. A third brother, Bernard K. Wilbur, who was a practicing medical Doctor in Alaska, assumed the role of supervisor in the company in 1900. In 1894, the company introduced an item which was to remain a staple for them up until the present day– the Wilbur “bud” (later, Milton Hershey was to model his “kiss” after this treat.)
Two other brothers soon were brought in to assist the company, Steve and Mass Oriole, who had studied chocolate making in France. By 1905 there was a third generation of Wilburs to enter into the company– Lawrence H. Wilbur, who was trained as a chocolatier in Germany. In 1913 The company was to expand once more, to Lititz, Pennsylvania, where they constructed a large five-story building that remains as their chocolate factory to this day. In 1927 the company merged with a their family’s Swiss counterpart, the Suchards, and it remained the Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate company throughout most of the twentieth century.
We would be remiss if we failed to mention another chocolatier whose product is much more of a household name, and that is Milton Hershey. Too few people realize that Milton earned his confectionery sea legs right here in Philadelphia. Milton Hershey was born on September the 13th in 1857 in Hockersville, Pennsylvania, amid a grassy checkerboard of pastureland and bell-clanging cattle. His mother was Veronica “Fanny” Snavely, a tight-lipped and firm-pressed woman who was the daughter of a strict Mennonite minister. Milton’s father was Henry Hershey, a man who wore white whiskers and a wry smile, who was always living free-spiritedly and chased big dreams and a fast dollar. Milton left school at the age of twelve, when it was decided by his mother that he was to be apprenticed to a local printer in the not-too-distant city of Lancaster. Milton simply hated it and one day he got fed up with his boss’s tyrannical demands, so he leaned forward and purposefully let his straw hat fall into the printing rollers. This promptly ended Milton’s career in the printing field, along with his apprenticeship. Before long, Milton had another apprenticeship, this time with a Lancaster based candy-maker named Joeseph Royer. Young Hershey learned the practice of store-upkeep from Royer, along with the proper way, at the time, of cooking caramels. It wasn’t very long until Milton felt that he had garnered enough skill and entrepreneurial drive to start his own business. In 1876, Milton did just that in Philadelphia on Spring Garden Street below 9th. In that year, Philadelphia hosted the nation’s Centennial celebration and saw an influx of tourists from all over the hundred year old nation. The rise in foot traffic helped Milton with his sales, but it didn’t last for nearly long enough (his business was to eventually fail, particularly when his father appeared and began to meddle in his financial affairs.)
Frustrated, Milton decided to move to Denver, Colorado, in the spirit of adventure and with the outlook of hard, steady work. Milton’s father tagged along, largely because he was seeking gold in the Rocky Mountains. Milton took employment at a candy shop in the city, where he noticed that his boss had been adding milk to his caramels to give them a sweeter taste. He registered this trick in his memory for later use. He eventually made his way eastward, first stopping in Chicago. He then started another business in New York City, but this too failed, again due to the meddlesome interference of his freewheeling father. In 1886 he tried an upstart business venture once more, this time in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Milton used the trick of adding fresh milk from the dairy farms into his caramels to sweeten them, and he found that this became a huge success. The business flourished magnificently. In 1893 Milton attended the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he met a German chocolatier by the name of J.M. Lehman who had developed sophisticated new machinery for chocolate making. Milton purchased the machinery from this innovative fellow from Dresden, and he became one step closer to his awaiting destiny. In 1900 Milton sold his successful Lancaster Caramel Company for a cool one million dollars, and used that money to begin construction of a chocolate factory in the town of Derry Church, not terribly far from his birthplace. Milton made sure that he built his factory next to the abundant dairy farms where he could always have a large and ready supply of fresh milk for his product. The factory was to be the state-of-the-art, and he was to build a company town that was just as innovative as his factory for his workforce. Milton believed in the philosophy that a happy workforce equalled a productive workforce, so he insisted that they have all the entertainment accommodations and quality education necessary for a happy and fulfilling life. Sadly, in 1915, Milton’s beloved wife passed away from a debilitating neuro-degenerative disease. Milton was made a widower, and her passing affected him greatly. Having had no children, Milton turned to philanthropy, starting a school for orphans, and donating money to various charitable causes. The business also expanded, and in 1916 Milton created another chocolate factory and company town in Cuba, where he would be closer to the raw product of the sugar cane that was to go to market. Milton lived out the remainder of his years trying to give back to his community, and the town of Derry Church was renamed Hershey, Pennsylvania; and it hosted a lavish amusement park that gave thrills to whomsoever visited it. Milton Hershey passed away on October, 1945.
Moving away from the chocolate history, we would like to bring into focus the rich history of a chewy sweet– bubble gum. Gum has actually been chewed for thousands of years, stretching all the way back into the Neolithic era when a gum base was produced from the sap of birch bark. The Ancient Greeks were known to have made a chicle gum from mastic trees, Native Americans were known to have chewed resin form the sap of spruce trees But chewing gums weren’t artificially flavored until the mid-nineteenth century until 1869 when William Semple filed a patent for it. Adams New York Chewing Gum started to produce chewing gums on a larger scale in 1871, Black Jack Chewing gum produced a licorice flavor gum in 1884, and “Chiclets” were created in 1899. Philadelphia does play an important role in gum history, since the Fleer company started to produce gums in 1885, when Frank Henry Fleer began to add flavoring extracts into the chicle base in the factory begun in 1849 by Otto Holstein, a German Quaker. In 1906, Fleer began to produce “Blibber-Blubber”, a gray-colored gum that could be blown into bubbles. Later, in 1928, a company employee named Walter Diemer improved the formula and created “Dubble Bubble,” which was pinkish in color, and became the standard-bearer for bubble gums to follow suit after its invention. The Fleer company went on to produce sports cards that they sold along with their packages, which were collected by juveniles who would trade them during playtime.
Yet another confectioner to have become prosperous in the city of brotherly love was David Goldenberg, a Jewish immigrant from Romania who came to this country through Ellis Island in 1887, but eventually settled in Philadelphia. His wife was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and he spoke to her in Yiddish. He began selling candy from a pushcart, barking out about quality homemade candies across the cobblestone roads in a thick Eastern-European accent. He eventually opened up a candy store of his own in 1890, founding The Goldenberg Candy Company. He sold homemade marshmallows, soft fudge, lollipops, and other goods to eager clientele. In the 1917, he introduced a confection called “Peanut Chews,” which consisted of peanuts and molasses covered in a dark chocolate coating. These candies, too, were rationed during the first World War, since they were high-energy bars and protein-packed, and a favorite with the infantrymen. They also remain a favorite treat for those in the Philadelphia area and the Mid-Atlantic region. In the 1930s the bars were sold at “Chew-ets” and were sold at movie theater concession stands to theatergoers going to see flickering escapist comedies and dramas during the Great Depression.
One confection that gets eaten seasonally around Halloween time is candy corn. These tri-color triangular sweets were invented in Philadelphia in the 1880s by a gentleman named George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company. They were originally called “butter creams” and consisted of a fondant comprised of sugar and corn syrup. These candies caught on, and were famously produced by the Goelitz candy company, which first called the candy kernels “chicken feed”. Today, the Goelitz company is known as the gourmet manufacturers “Jelly Belly Candy Company”, and they produce a stunning variety of jelly beans in addition to candy corn.
While we have spent ample time listing confectioners who operated on a massive scale, it is equally important to mention the smaller “Mom and Pop” retail confectioneries that made their own candies and garnered a large local following, like Lore’s Chocolate, Casani Candy Company, Shellenberger’s Candy Company, Reinert’s Own Make Candies, C.H. Cassel’s Candies, and innumerable others,. Perhaps chiefest among these, outside of Shane’s, was Young’s Candy Shop on Girard Avenue in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia. This homespun candy store went back for three generations when it was first opened by German immigrant Johann Young in 1897. It is most recently remembered for the proprietorship of Harry Young, a gentle-souled confectioner who was a master of his craft. The Young candy store made hand-pulled taffy and candy canes on antique candy hooks, they made “ribbon candy” on antique candy cranks, and, most famously, every winter they made their famous “clear toy candy” from over two hundred and fifty different cast-iron candy moulds of varying shapes, including reindeer, steam engines, locomotives, lions, camels, leaping horses, firemen, St. Nicks, rabbits, roosters, Presidents, and bicycling toads, to name a few. The majority of the moulds were made by the Thomas Mills Company in the late nineteenth century, and when molten sugar is poured into the rubber band-bound moulds, the sugars would harden and take on a glassy appearance. These candies were traditionally presented as gifts at Christmastime banquets, and could only be made during the cooler months of the year, less they cloud up and get foggy in the midst of too much humidity.
Harry Young knew that he would be a candy-maker all his life, and had no regrets about it. He was born in the apartment above his candy store, and for the remainder of his Earthly life he was devoted to its continuance.He graduated from Central High School in 1946 and in 1951 he served in the United States Army at Fort Knox as a cryptographer. After this, he took the reigns of his family’s shop, and fell in love with a young woman working there, Jane, who had a sweet smile and was by his side for the rest of his life. Harry liked to point out the oak-trimmed cabinetry to customers, as well as the hex-tile floor, the pressed tin ceiling, the brass scales, and a variety of other antiques, some of them dating to the store’s beginnings at the turn of the century. Harry Young passed away in 2006, but he will always be remembered for his gentle eyes and smile, and the high bar of his craftsmanship, whether it was in dipping homemade marshmallows, making batches of homemade ice cream, setting out marble ice cream tables, pouring molten sugar into candy molds and cast iron cookware, or ringing up customers on nickle-plated antique registers. He did his job exceptionally, and will be remembered for his dutifulness to his craft and his kind-hearted demeanor.
Another Philadelphia candy staple has been Asher’s chocolate, which goes back four generations to 1892, when it was begun by Chester A. Asher, a Scottish farm hand hailing from Ontario who had briefly worked at a candy shop in Boston before branching out on his own in Center City, Philadelphia. Chester made a variety of sweets, including chocolate dipped fruits and European-style crystalized bon-bons. In 1898 he moved to the historic neighborhood of Germantown in Philadelphia, when he began to produce chocolates on a larger scale. The business progressed into its second generation, and adjacent buildings were bought uo (including an old movie theater) and were converted to candy-making facilities. Their focus honed from novelty specialties to strictly chocolate making as the demand for chocolate increased and temperature controlling devices enabled chocolate to be made and consumed year round. The business continues to this day, and even makes sugar-free products, from its new facility in Souderton, Pennsylvania. The name of Asher is know to many chocolate enthusiasts, candy retailers, Reading Terminal Market goers, and others stricken with a sweet tooth.
Well, candy lovers, it is my sincerest hope that I have imparted a treasury of information about candy-making history to you. I hope that you take to heart and everyday speech the rich history that our country (and city) has in the way of all-things-candy.