Here’s What Those Old-School Candies That Everyone Loves Are Called — And a Little History About Them
Growing up, both of my grandmothers could always be counted on for candy. They always had a few candy dishes around the living room, resting on side tables, ready in case a guest needed to satisfy their sweet tooth. The glass bowls would feature Werther’s, those fat red and white-striped mints, Andes mints, and strawberry bon bons.
I never saw a strawberry bon bon anywhere else, with its adorable shiny wrapper that looks like a cartoon berry, and that has always struck me as a bit mysterious. Luckily, journalist Doug Mack was similarly curious about the hard candy and did some investigating.
Mack shared his findings on Twitter as well as in his snack-themed newsletter, Snack Stack. As he dug into the candy’s history, he found that the bon bons weren’t just “old-fashioned” in the 1980s, they were already called “old-fashioned” in the 1950s and ’60s. So when did they actually get invented? The exact date is unclear, but the earliest mention that Mack found was in 1861. “French-style” drop candies were a new thing at the time, and très populaire.
So, mystery solved! Those pretty (but divisive) strawberry candies are from the mid-1800s via France, and at some point became an old-fashioned treat that endures to this day. As a bonus, Mack also pointed out that hard candies were popular in the 1920s as carnival prizes and subsequently during the Depression when glass candy dishes appeared. They were a status symbol, showing that people could afford these little luxuries and share them with guests.
Mack’s newsletter solved a couple of lifelong mysteries for me, explaining my grandmothers’ always-full candy dishes (they were children of the Depression) as well as the strawberry candy inside. It also gives me a new appreciation for strawberry bon bons which you can still enjoy today, over 160 years later. The complete thread of Mack’s findings can be found here and if you’re into all things nostalgic (especially candy!), you’ll definitely want to take a look.