Candy History, Candy News

Candy History: Oh Henry

September 19, 2013 by

oh-henry-vintageThe Oh Henry Bar is a straightforward, delicious candy bar with a somewhat complicated history. As opposed to Snickers that was named after Forrest Mars’ beloved racehorse, no one is 100% certain where the name for Oh Henry came from.

Theories abound but one thing that almost everyone agrees upon is that this is a delicious candy bar and has been for close to 100 years. And no, this candy bar is not named after the baseball great Hank Aaron.

Spark your curiosity? Read on…

Lore has it that the name was derived from that of a randy young man who made frequents visits to the original manufacturers – the Williamson company – less for sugary sweets and more to flirt with the eye candy who worked on the assembly line. This leaves us to assume that the young man’s name was — you guessed it — Henry. But certain proof eludes us.

Perhaps a more credible theory is that the candy bar was named after the owner of the now defunct Peerless Candy company.  The owner’s name was Tom Henry and in a vainglorious move, created the Tom Henry Bar.  It was a short-lived venture as he sold the rights to the candy bar in 1920 to the Williamson Candy who changed the name to Oh Henry.

oh-henry-candy-bar-historyOh Henry was also one of the first examples of “guerilla marketing” as an employee of Williamson Candy Company was determined to make the Oh Henry Bar famous. Lacking the funds to launch a full frontal Madison Avenue advertising campaign, this wily salesman had bumper stickers printed with only two words – Oh Henry. Curiousity didn’t kill the cat and this candy bar quickly made a name for itself.

Things remained much the same for close to 65 years until 1984, when Nestle acquired the rights to distribute Oh Henry in the United States. The candy bar is also sold in Canada but distributed by Hershey with the difference being a “chocately” coating as opposed to milk chocolate.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Mollie Sheppard October 12, 2014 at 2:07 am

    So for the record the real story is….
    My Great Grandfather Henry Brown McKelvie worked his whole life for a food distributing company in Vancouver, British Columbia called Kelly Douglas & Company.
    Henry was the head of the candy, drug and tobacco departments. It was his suggestion to add the caramel & peanuts to the plain chocolate bars that Hershey made at the time. They named the chocolate bar after him.

    • Reply Jonah Half October 16, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Thanks so much for sharing! We haven’t heard this theory of the Oh Henry! name before, or have seen any linkage between the candy bar and Kelly Douglas & Company. Do you have have any proof to back up your claim?

    • Reply Deborah Lamb December 11, 2017 at 11:50 am

      I grew up in Kansas. I was always told that the home of the oh henry candy bar came from a small town in Kansas. Dexter, Kansas to be exact. The candy store is still there and still claims the original oh henry candy bar came from there.

      • Reply Terry Mccaslin February 9, 2018 at 12:08 am

        This story is true I was born and raised in Winfield and have always read same story. Tom Henry created the Oh Henry bar. He was from Arkansas City.

  • Reply Robert F. Henderson March 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    We have a tradition here in the small So. Indiana town of Orleans that has been passed down for years now that the inspiration for the candy bar came from a local boy named Henry Monihan. The Monihan family here were friends with the Willamsons of Chicago and visited them often.

  • Reply Jill white August 21, 2017 at 11:33 am

    I don’t know what the real story is on who the ohenry bar was named after but recently during renovations on our old home an ohenry bar box was discovered inside a wall. When it was shown to my sister in law by the
    workman who found it (he said wow this may be valuable!) To which she replied ” it would have been worth more had you not eaten the bar!”…we got a big chuckle out of this but realistically is this box of any interest? Is there a museum for such things? The box is in really good shape especially considering where it’s been all these years!😀have pictures if interested.

    • Reply Jonah Half August 25, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Cool story and we would love to see some pictures!

  • Reply Doug StClair December 25, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    When my youngest son Henry was born, instead of cigars I proudly passed out O’Henry bars that were a big hit! Year 2000

  • Reply B. Colmenero June 24, 2018 at 9:20 am

    I can remember when they were only a nickel for one candy bar.

  • Reply Leo July 6, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    it’s named after the famous writer O. Henry.

  • Reply Leora Henry July 29, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Ok. Although these other theories are interesting let me set the record straight once and for all. Those of you who mentioned Henry’s Candies in Dexter Ks are correct! The candy bar WAS invented by Tom Henry (my great grandfather) Which was also the original name of the candy bar. The named changed to Oh Henry when he sold the patent to Williamson candy co. Who would later sell it to Nestle. 50+ years ago MY grandfather and my Dad Pat Henry Sr. And Pat Henry Jr. Who had learned the art of candy making from him,opened their own store, Henry and Son in Arkansas City Ks and later moved the operation to Dexter Ks where it is still up and running.. by my Aunt and 2 cousins. Where, btw, you can buy the original recipe of the candy bar.. But because the rights to the name werd sold, we cannot use the name Oh Henry. It is instead called Mama Henry bar..and is AMAZING. If you get a chance to stop by the store it will not disappoint. All the candy is still made by hand using the old recipes handed down by Great Grandfather. If there are anyone who still thinks it came from your brother, cousin, neighbors dog etc.Please look up the patent! It is available online. Thanks and God Bless. Leora

  • Reply Laura S Colen August 2, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I was curious after adopting a 3 yr. old Great Pyranese, named…..yup…..Henry.

  • Reply Laura S Colen August 2, 2018 at 11:28 am

    I was curious after adopting a 3 yr. old Great Pyranese, named…..yup…..Henry. Thanks for the history!

  • Reply Keith August 16, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Leora Henry, If it is available online, please provide a link.

  • Reply Mdk August 18, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I thought the company was owned (at least in the 90’s) by Sue Ellen Mischke.

  • Reply Dee Rollins September 9, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    What store in Henrico Virginia, csn I find O Henry candy bars

  • Reply Thomas Dougherty January 27, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    I vividly remember Paul Harvey telling this story on his radio show. “And now you know the rest of the story” It was a great story – I won’t try to tell – but it came from a young man who worked at the factory and was named Henry. He was a jack of all trades and anybody that wanted something done would say “Oh Henry” calling him over to do something.

  • Reply William Malmstrom February 8, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    And here I thought my literary grandparents were absolutely correct about the derivation of the name. When the new company took over in 1920 they wanted to change the name from Tom Henry candy bar did something snappier and more marketable. The incredibly popular American fiction writer O. Henry had died just 10 years before. But he was still at the Pinnacle of his Fame, the bee’s knees of American fiction. So when the new company took over the Tom Henry bar became the “Oh Henry”. They got to share all the glory the original
    O. Henry author, but were protected from copyright litigation by making the first word Oh instead of the initial O. And they even had plausible deniability for the Henry part, since it had already been named after Tom Henry to begin with. I still believe that’s the real story.

  • Leave a Reply