Retro Candy Timeline

by Jon Prince

Timeline HistoryEstablished in 1927, we have seen many candy trends come and go, and we are often asked about the history of candy and the current craze for retro candies.

Perhaps we could say that the fascination with candy, and with chocolate in particular, first occurred in 1502 when Christopher Columbus returned home from his fourth voyage of the "Americas."  Although he was not partial to this bittersweet treat, his benefactors in Spain found it fascinating, and 500 years later the love of chocolate continues stronger than ever.

Although it would be impossible to present an exact history, this timeline illustrates the development of the American candy industry from the 1800's onward. As you will see, many retro candies and their founding companies have come and gone, but it is interesting to note that 65 percent of American candy bars have been around for more than 60 years and many original manufacturers have been acquired by larger conglomerates.  We hope you enjoy the journey!

PS: The vintage picture above is our first candy showroom  Circa. 1943


The 1800s

  • Necco Wafer is born.
  • 1848  John Curtis produces the first branded chewing gum, made from tree sap, called The State of Maine Spruce Gum
  • 1854  The first packaged box of Whitman's Chocolate hits the scene
  • 1864  The first chocolate covered liquid center cherry was invented by Cella's Cherries.  
  • 1868  Richard & George Cadbury, the second generation of Cadburys, makes the first Valentine's Day box of chocolates starting the tradition that continues today
  • 1879  William H. Thompson creates Thompson Chocolate with the stated goal to "make only quality products"
  • 1880s Wunderle Candy Company creates candy corn, still a best-selling Halloween candy
  • 1881  Reed's Candy Company opens their doors in Chicago and produces a butterscotch candy later called Reed's Rolls
  • 1890  The Piedmont Candy Company, the manufacturer of Red Bird Peppermint Puffs, is founded in Lexington, North Carolina
  • 1891  Claus Doscher opens Doscher Brothers Confections and a few years later, after tasting taffy in France, the company introduces the famed French Chews
  • 1893  Quaker City Confectionary Company, located outside of Philadelphia, introduces Good & Plenty which goes on to be the oldest branded retro candy still in production
  • 1893  Milton Hershey attends the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago and watches chocolate being manufactured.  Ironically, the manufacturer of the machinery was a German company and gave Mr.Hershey a "great" deal so they didn't have to ship the equipment back to Europe! 
  • 1893  William Wrigley, Jr. introduces Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum and Wrigley's Spearmint Chewing Gum
  • 1893  Thomas Richardson, creator of Richardson Brands, introduces Pastel Mints at a department store in Philadelphia, PA
  • 1894  Milton Hershey creates what is known as the first "American" candy bar, although his famous Milk Chocolate Bar won’t be invented for a few more years
  • 1896  Leo Hirshfield, New York confectioner, introduces Tootsie Rolls, named after his daughter's nickname, "Tootsie." Learn more about this longtime favorite here.
  • 1890  Legend has it that an unnamed  Southern lady was making taffy but added the wrong ingredient resulting in the first batch of Peanut Brittle
  • 1899  The Jenner Manufacturing company is created. The name changes to Judson Atkinson 45 years later

The 1900s

  • 1900  A very important year as Milton Hershey introduces a variation of what will eventually become the  Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar.
  • 1900  Clark Gum Company introduces Teaberry Gum.  Find out what flavor it tastes like and the dance craze it inspired here.
  • 1901  The King Leo pure peppermint stick candy is developed
  • 1901  Multicolored candy disks called NECCO Wafers first appear. The name stands for New England Confectionery Company
  • 1902  New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) makes the first Conversation Hearts which are still a thriving Valentine’s tradition
  • 1904  Emil Brach starts Brach's Candy, his second attempt at the candy business.  The first product was Wrapped Caramels which sold for $.20 a pound
  • 1905  The Squirrel Brand Company of Massachusetts creates the first peanut bar known as the Squirrel Nut Zipper. It was, sadly, discontinued in the late 1980s, but resurrected in the 1990s
  • 1905  Flush with the success of their Conversation Hearts, New England Confectionary Company introduces another classic peanut butter candy called Peach Blossoms
  • 1906  Spangler Manufacturing Company, know now as Spangler Candy, is created. The company got its start manufacturing baking soda products but added candy to their repertoire in 1908
  • 1906  Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses appear in the iconic silver foil wrapping and a town in Pennsylvania called Derry Church changes its name to Hershey
  • 1906 The American Chicle Company introduces Chiclets, the candy-coated gum that uses chicle inside.  To learn what exactly is chicle and where it comes from, click here
  • 1907  After the great success of the Milk Chocolate Bar, Hershey introduces the beloved Hershey's Kisses. The original Hershey's Kiss were called Silvertops and sold as individual units (this first incarnation was discontinued in 1931)
  • 1908  Hershey's adds almonds to its already famous Milk Chocolate Bar
  • 1908  Theodor Tobler and his cousin Emil Baumann invent a delicious Swiss Milk Chocolate and Honey and Nougat infused candy bar called Toblerone

 The 1910s

  • 1911  Ethel and Frank Mars open a candy company in Tacoma, Washington. The company, later Mars, Inc., would become one of the largest, privately owned candy companies in the entire world
  • 1912  Life Savers, reportedly named because of their resemblance to life preservers, are introduced in peppermint flavor. The five-flavor roll isn’t marketed for another 22 years
  • 1912  The Whitman's Sampler box of chocolate debuts and is the first box of chocolates to include an index for chocolate lovers to pick exactly which piece they want to eat
  • 1913  Goo Goo Clusters, which will become a Southern favorite, is introduced, the first candy bar to combine milk chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts
  • 1914  The Heath Bar is introduced by L.S. Heath & Sons
  • 1914  Mary Janes are created by Charles N. Miller in Boston, MA.  Learn more about this nostalgic classic here.
  • 1916 George DeMet introduces the Turtle, chocolate covered caramel and nut candy that strikes a resemblance to a real turtle.  Discover more about this creamy classic here.
  • 1917  Goldenberg Candy Company, in Philadelphia, PA, creates the Goldenberg's Peanut Chews as a high-protein energy ration for WWI troops (they aren’t available to retail customers until 1921, however). The company sells and is renamed Just Born in 2003.  Unwrap more about their facinating history here!

The 1920s

  • 1920  Fannie May Candies opens its first retail candy store in Chicago
  • 1920  Williamson Candy Co., introduces the O'Henry! bar
  • 1920  Hollywood Brands introduced a white fudge candy bar called Double Zero Bar.  The formula remained the same but in 1934, the name was changed to Zero Bar
  • 1920  Henry Heidi creates Jujyfruits which became an instant movie favorite.  The chewy candy also made a cameo with Elaine from the hit show Seinfeld.  
  • 1921  Chuckles, colorful, sugared jelly candies, hit the scene
  • 1921  Hershey automates its production process and Hershey's Kisses are now machine-wrapped and adorned with a small "flag" on top
  • 1922  H.B. Reese makes the first peanut butter candy coated with Hershey's Milk Chocolate, which we now know as the  Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
  • 1922  Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, made in Philadelphia, PA, are introduced and soon take on a cult status with East Coast candy aficionados
  • 1922  A West Coast company called Colby & McDermott introduce a taffy and peanut butter candy bar called the Zero Bar
  • 1922  The Fox Cross Candy Company creates the Charleston Chew which was inspired by the swinging Charleston dance.  
  • 1923  The Baby Ruth candy bar, named for President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, is introduced by Curtiss Candy Co.
  • 1923  The Mounds Chocolate Bar, coconut filling coated in milk chocolate, makes its debut. Invented by Peter Paul Halijian, it sells under the name Peter Paul Mounds since Halijian is too difficult to pronounce
  • 1923  Mars introduces the Milky Way Candy Bar, designed to taste like malted milk. It’s one of the first candies with a nougat center
  • 1923  Hershey's Kisses become so popular that the Hershey Company registers the name for federal trademark protection
  • 1924  A unique non-chocolate candy bar, with a sweet taste and taffy consistency, called Bit O Honey is introduced by the Schutter Johnson company of Chicago. 
  • 1924  Akron Candy Company creates Dum Dums lollipops.  Discover more about this easy to say treat here.
  • 1924  Fair Play Caramel Company introduces Kits and BB Bats Taffy. The brand has been sold to 6 manufacturers over the years but is still available.
  • 1925  Hershey continues to innovate and introduces the first Milk Chocolate Bar with Peanuts, called Mr.Goodbar
  • 1925 The honey-flavored taffy bar made with almond bits, called Bit-O-Honey, is introduced
  • 1926  Milk Duds are first sold
  • 1926  Squirrel Nut Zippers are introduced by Squirrel Brand.  Find out it's connections to Prohibition and a punk rock band here!
  • 1927  McKeesport Candy Co. was established. Although not as important as the introduction of a new candy bar, we couldn’t resist including ourselves as we are one of the oldest wholesale candy companies in the nation!
  • 1928  Primrose Candy Company is established, focusing on manufacturing hard candies
  • 1928  Heath Bars appear, the first chocolate-covered toffee bars. These were originally only offered for home delivery since they were sold by a dairy salesman
  • 1928  Admiral Richard Byrd begins his legendary Antartica expedition equipped with 2.5 tons of Necco Wafers
  • 1928  An important year for any candy lover as the beloved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are first marketed. They are still one of the best-selling candy bars of all time

The 1930s

  • 1930  M&M Mars introduces the Snickers Bar, named after the Mars family’s beloved horse, and it is still one of the best-selling candy bars ever.  Learn more about this famous bar here.
  • 1931  Tootsie Roll Pops are introduced, which some consider the first novelty candy since they combine two candies in one
  • 1931  A lucky accident involving marshmallow at the Sifer’s Candy Company leads to the creation of the Valomilk Candy Bar, originally known as Valomilk Dips
  • 1932  M&M Mars introduces the MARS Candy Bar, later renamed Snickers Almond Crunch in the late 1990s (but the formula never changed)
  • 1932  Charles Howard creates Violet Mints in a New York industrial loft. The product was first sold on New York street corners and the company later changed its name to  C.Howards Company
  • 1932  Ferrara Pan Candy Company, located in Chicago, introduces Red Hots.  Find out more about this hot candy here.
  • 1932  M&M Mars debuts the 3 Musketeers, featuring chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry nougat. This flavor combination will last 13 years
  • 1932  Pierre Van Melle develops Peppermint Mentos in the Netherlands. It was until 1973 that new flavors were added.
  • 1936  Breaking from tradition, William Luden, one of the creators of cough drops, introduces the 5th Avenue Candy Bar
  • 1936  Marpo offers the first non-meltable ice cream cone called Marpo "Yum Yum" Marshmallow Cones
  • 1938  Hershey introduces a candy bar that combines milk chocolate with Rice Krispies, called the Krackel Bar consisting of Almonds and Crisped Rice. In 1943, due to wartime food rationing, it was changed to an all rice formula
  • 1938  Necco releases the Sky Bar, the first candy bar with four separate sections.  Learn more about this revolutionary candy confection here!
  • 1939  Hershey's Miniatures chocolate bars debut
  • 1939  Overland Candy Company introduces chocolate-covered malt balls called Giants
  • 1939  Blommer Chocolate Company opens a huge factory in Chicago which will become the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America

The 1940s

  • 1941  Bruce Murrie, the President of Hershey Chocolates, joins forces with Forrest Mars and opens a company called M&M Ltd
  • 1941  M&M's Plain Chocolate candies are introduced in response to depressed chocolate sales during the summer months (these candies will melt in your mouth, not in your hands). 59 years later, M&M Mars shortened the name to M&M’s
  • 1940  Hershey produces a special chocolate bar called the D Bar which is high in calories and has a high melting point, designed as a survival ration for soldiers. It is wrapped in wax paper so that it will be impervious to poisonous gas, and to prevent soldiers from eating it too quickly, the flavor is bittersweet
  • 1942-1945  To help maintain wartime morale, women at the Whitman’s Candy Company slipped notes to soldiers in boxes of Whitman’s Chocolate Samplers set to ship to the troops. The notes resulted at least a few friendships and even a couple of marriages
  • 1945  M&M Mars decides to change the formula for the 3 Musketeers Bar to one that’s all chocolate
  • 1945 The Mason Company introduces Dots in strawberry, cherry, orange, lime and lemon flavors.  
  • 1947  Peter Paul introduces Mounds
  • 1947  Topps Candy Company introduces Bazooka Bubble Gum. This iconic American confection would endure for 65 years until it was discontinued in 2012
  • 1947  Frankford Candy & Chocolate Company is founded in Philadelphia, PA
  • 1949  Junior Mints are introduced
  • 1949  Smarties candy roll wafers are introduced, often called “candy pills."  Become smarter on Smarties with our history page here!
  • 1949  El Bubble Bubble Gum Cigars are the first five-cent bubble gum.
  • 1949  Leaf Confectionery changes the name of a popular chocolate-covered malted milk ball from Giants to Whoppers.  Learn more about it's great history here.

The 1950s

  • 1950   Sam Altshuler creates The Annabelle Candy Company, named for his daughter. His first product is the Rocky Road Candy Bar.  Discover more historical facts here!
  • 1954   Just Born introduces Marshmallow Peeps in the shape of Easter chicks.  Learn more about how Peeps were born here
  • 1950   Bobs Candy Canes are introduced, sold under the Cris Cringle brand
  • 1952   Sunline Inc. introduces a powdery candy called Pixy Stix that was a precursor to powder candies such as Fun Dip.
  • 1958   Candy Necklaces are introduced, an enduring retro candy classic today
  • 1958  Eric Bernat introduces bulk Chupa Chup Lollipops with a clear wrapper. It is not until 1968 that the labels become iconic.

The 1960s

  • 1960  Looking to create a healthy candy, M&M Mars introduces Starburst Fruit Chews, which are later fortified with Vitamin C
  • 1960  Although the exact date is not known, Regal Crown Sours start trickling in form the United Kingdom although they were originally made in Denmark.
  • 1960  Amurol confections introduce the first sugar-free bubble gum. They called it Blammo
  • 1960  Ferrara Pan Candy Company introduces Lemonheads and, later this same year, Apple Heads, Grape Heads, and Orange Heads
  • 1962  Hershey begins to sell Hershey's Kisses in colored wrappers
  • 1962  The Phoenix Candy Company, ironically located in Brooklyn, New York,  introduces a taffy and encourages consumers to "enjoy a piece now and save a few for later" aptly naming the product Now & Later
  • 1963  Cadbury Brothers introduce a filled chocolate egg called Fry Creme Eggs. In 1971, the name as changed to Cadbury Creme Eggs and an Easter classic was officially born.
  • 1963  Sweetarts hit the market
  • 1963  The Hershey’s Chocolate Company acquires the H.B. Reese Company for the handsome sum of $23 million
  • 1966  Fleer introduces Razzles, "First it's a candy, then it's a gum!"  Get dazzled by this innovative candy's history here.
  • 1966  The Campbell Soup Company acquires the Belgian Chocolatier Godiva
  • 1966  100 Grand candy bar is created.  Find out how it was used in some mischievous pranks here.
  • 1968  Zotz are introduced, one of the first "sour fizzy" candies
  • 1969  Chupa Chup Lollipops become an art form as the painter Salvador Dali designed the label.  He insisted that the logo always be on the top of the wrapper.

The 1970s

  • 1970  M&M Mars introduces the Snickers Munch Bar
  • 1970  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups become so popular that the Hershey Food Corporation doubles its production in order to meet worldwide demand
  • 1970  Frank Galatolie introduced a treat called Mars Men which was only available in Canada. This "Sour then Sweet" treat later became Sour Patch Kids. Want to learn more?
  • 1991  Nestle introduces Laffy Taffy, the taffy with a joke inside every package.  Learn more about the hilarious history here.
  • 1973  Hershey opens the first candy-related theme park known as Hershey's Chocolate World
  • 1973  Hershey becomes the first candy company to offer ingredients and nutritional information on wrappers
  • 1974  General Mills introduces a truly revolutionary new product called Pop Rocks. This lead to a rumor that swept the nation. Curious? Learn more
  • 1974  Chuckles jelly candy sponsors daredevil Evil Knievel.  Discover more about this unlikely partnership here.
  • 1976  Herman Goelitz Company introduces individually-flavored jelly beans called Jelly Belly
  • 1976  Hershey decides to tweak the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and offers a version with peanuts called Reese's Crunchy
  • 1977  Hershey introduces a new variation of the "Great American Chocolate Bar" called Golden Almond
  • 1978  Because of the massive success of Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s introduces Reese's Pieces
  • 1978  Cadbury Adams discontinues Beemans, Black Jack and Clove Gum only to reintroduce them in 1985 as part of a "nostalgic campaign". They are permanently discontinued in 2015 and reintroduced by Gerritt J. Verburg in 2019 
  • 1979  M&M Mars introduces the Twix Caramel Cookie Candy Bar
  • 1979  Frank Richards invents everyone's favorite lickable jewelry, the Ring Pop.

The 1980s

  • 1980  Herman Goelitz Company introduces the first American-made gummi bears and gummi worms, which up to now had been imported from Europe
  • 1980  Rob Nelson and Jim Bouton create Big League Chew, America's favorite shredded bubble gum.  Learn more about its fantastic history here!
  • 1981  M&M's, or as Nasa deemed them "candy-coated chocolates", take a journey to the solar system aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia
  • 1981  After their success in Europe, M&M Mars introduces Skittle Bite Size Candies to the United States
  • 1982  Van Halen introduces the infamous "Brown M&M's Rider" into their concert contract, banning Brown M&M's from their dressing room.  Find out why they did it here
  • 1983  Albanese Candy is founded with the aim of producing the world's best gummi products.
  • 1983  Angelo Fraggos invents Nerds, the crunchy little candy with a mysterious name.  Learn more about Nerd history here.
  • 1985  After a 122-year run, Cella's Cherries was acquired by Tootsie Industries. It remains the only cherry with a "liquid filled center" available. 
  • 1985  Sour Patch Kids migrate to the United States. Frank Galatolie invented them in the 1970s but they were only available for purchase in Canada.  It wasn't until 2013 that Blue was added to the mix!
  • 1988  Hershey’s Chocolate Company is renamed Hershey Chocolate USA
  • 1989  Hershey introduces the Symphony Bar, a combination of almonds, toffee, and milk chocolate

The 1990s

  • 1990  Hershey sends 144,000 heat-resistant candy bars to soldiers in the Gulf War. The formula is identical to what they sent to soldiers in WWII
  • 1991  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups continue to be a worldwide favorite and the recipe is improved with three times the amount of peanuts
  • 1992  M&M Mars introduces the DOVE Dark Chocolate Bar and DOVE Milk Chocolate Bar
  • 1993  Hershey introduces Miniature Hershey's Kisses as well as white chocolate kisses called Hugs
  • 1994  M&M Mars introduces Starburst Jelly Beans

As a memorial of sorts to candy that is no longer with us, we keep a list of Discontinued Candies, candies that are gone but not forgotten. We bet you remember some of these gems, too.

Please note that this timeline is for entertainment purposes only and while we strive for accuracy and like to think we know it all (our mothers think we’re pretty smart), we cannot guarantee all of the information here.
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