Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Candy Show: New York, November 1893

Temple of Vesta (Rome)
The real Temple of Vesta in Rome
What fun it would be to go to the Candy Show in New York City in November 1893. It ran from November 6 to the 25th, and was held at the Lenox Lyceum, a concert hall at Madison Avenue and 59th Street. Almost four thousand people went on the first day.

Candy companies from all over the United States were there to make candy right in front of the visitors who would then eat it. All the candy booths crowded the Lyceum's main floor and balcony, with a model of the Temple of Vesta - modeled after the one at the Chicago World's Fair earlier that year - right in the middle of the main floor. There were coconut-opening and caramel-wrapping contests, with gold medals for those who excelled at these events.

Golden peanut brittle cracked on a serving dish
Wikimedia Commons
One New York Times reporter who went noted that most of the salesgirls there seemed to be named Bessie, and they offered chocolate bonbons, licorice, caramels and peanut brittle, among other things. Miss Bessie Day was in charge of cough drops (not officially candy, but never mind). Miss Bessie Montague offered "honeyed words and peppermint sticks." And Miss Bessie Bellerouge of the Geneva Fruit Company, who changed her outfit three times a day (white in the afternoon, pink in the evening, and sometimes blue) sold "cooling drinks" - which must have been welcome after all those sweets. There were 200 pounds of candy made fresh every day.

Peanut brittle, a popular confection in the 1890s and ever since then, too, was a top seller at the Candy Show:

There was a special demand for peanut brittle, which is the greatest rival of Graham's Boston chips [these were a kind of molasses taffy, apparently], dispensed by Miss Bessie Harrigan, who has dark eyes, the patience of Job with...young men with high collars, and the strength of a two-horse power engine, apparently, for she shovels out chips all day and half the night, and keeps her temper through it all.

The best part of all? The candies "look so good," said the reporter - and you can almost see him licking his fingers and pausing to sit down and rest his stomach for a brief moment - "and may be had for the asking, almost in unlimited quantities." One gentleman (possibly the same reporter) had "visited the exhibition about ten times and eaten something like twenty pounds of candy." And every woman who went to the candy show and bought a ticket, the New York Times said, would get a big box of bonbons - two pieces each from every candy maker there, "enclosed in his own wrapper." Pepto Bismol - and toothpaste - not included.

"Candy Exposition Opened," New York Times, November 7, 1893.
"Attractions at the Candy Show," New York Times, November 8, 1893.
"Many Women, One Mind," New York Times, November 16, 1893.
"Miss Bessie at the Candy Show," New York Times, November 17, 1893.


Evan Johnson said...

I would love to go to a big candy show. I like the reporters take on it all.

Bill said...

That sounds like fun. I shopped at an old-fashioned candy store while on vacation long ago in Bar Harbor that I'll always remember.

I wonder what was up with all the Bessies?

Marcheline said...

Blargh.... I ate a bag of potato chips before going to bed last night and my stomach is still so full that reading this post is making me woozy.

On a good day, I do like peanut brittle, though!

Auntie E said...

Oh I love peanut brittle
Happy Tuesday
Fall Beauties

chubskulit said...

I just had some peanut brittle yesterday, delicious!

lee said...