Admiral Byrd and the NECCO Wafer
by Laurnie Wilson
It’s no secret that NECCO Wafers have been enjoyed for over a century. In fact, people have been sucking on this sweet stuff since 1847, when Oliver Chase invented the first lozenge cutter.
This little machine kick-started the candy industry in the U.S. and was integral to keeping NECCO the longest continually operating candy company in the nation. But while the wafers were met with immediate acclaim, it wasn’t until 1928 that NECCO Wafers really made it big.
On the World Stage
Enter, Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr., an American naval officer from one of Virginia’s first families, Admiral Byrd was a man of adventure. He ventured to the North Pole in 1926 and flew across the Atlantic in 1927. Then, in 1928, he took adventure to the next level when he decided to embark on an unprecedented Antarctic expedition.
While Polar expeditions were old hat to him, this journey soon gained special significance to everyone with a sweet tooth. For when Admiral Byrd departed for the South Pole, he brought 2½ tons of NECCO Wafers along for the ride. That was a pound of NECCO Wafers every week, for every man on his expedition, for the entire two-year journey.
That’s a whole lot of sugar for a fearless group of explorers, don’t you think? Then again, when faced with a daunting, frozen voyage, can you really blame the Admiral for wanting to be able to satisfy his sweet tooth?
The Most Qualified Candy
Besides loving those eight original flavors - chocolate, licorice, cinnamon, lemon, lime, orange, wintergreen, and clove - there were probably a few more reasons Byrd picked NECCO Wafers as his candy of choice for his extended stay at the South Pole.
For one, NECCO Wafers are easy to eat with very little mess. They also happen to be practically indestructible: an important quality for something thrown in a backpack for a couple of years.
If Only They'd Kept a Food Log
But how many Wafers did Byrd and his men actually eat? And when did they eat them? Those details are still open to speculation, as currently there exist no firm numbers on actual NECCO consumption during the voyage. But we can be sure that these seemingly inconsequential little wafers were a welcome reminder of home, and a temporary reprieve from the hardships of the Antarctic for Byrd and all of his men.
Credit May Be Due
Interestingly enough, NECCO seems to have never used Byrd in their advertising campaigns. But, chances are, this candy may have been popular enough to not need a boost from a celebrity connection.
Today, you can enjoy the same eight original flavors that Admiral Byrd carried with him, all those years ago, to the South Pole. And as you savor the sweet taste of NECCO tradition, you can take heart that this candy’s place in pop culture is as deliciously indestructible as the candy itself.