In the aftermath of the big elections in Virginia and New Jersey, experts say a red wave could replace a blue wave. But one thing’s for sure: American kids are riding a wave of sugar as they finish off the last Halloween candy.
Which begs an interesting question: Are you familiar with the stories behind the names of America’s beloved candy bars?
We start with the Kit Kat bar. One day in the 1930s, a worker at a large confectionery factory in York, England slipped a recommendation into a suggestion box for a small candy bar that a worker could easily carry in their lunch box. The British quickly fell in love with the crunchy taste when Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp debuted in 1935. But they were less enthusiastic about its goofy name.
Stepping into English history, when a mutton pie called Kit Kat was served at meetings of the Kit-Cat political club in London in the 18th century, the name was resurrected. The new title played just as well when it was introduced on this side of the Atlantic after WWII.
Think the gooey goodness of Milky War candy bar was inspired by our galaxy? Think again.
When Mars Candy rolled it out in the early 1920s, it borrowed the name from a milkshake that was popular at the time. Americans weren’t afraid of this bit of plagiarism because when the Milky Way became national in 1925, it racked up $ 800,000 in sales, or roughly $ 12.5 million today. Not bad when you consider that they were selling nickel each.
Speaking of Mars, who hasn’t at one time or another fallen for the nougat on peanuts on caramel on the milk chocolate feel of a Snickers bar? A logical guess would be that its name came from sneers that followed a funny idea. But no. Snickers was actually named for the favorite horse of the Mars family!
Then there is the very popular 3 Mousquetaires Bar. What does Alexander Dumas’ 1844 novel about 17th century adventurers have to do with a chewy whipped mousse covered in milk chocolate?
When it debuted in 1932, it was different from the candy bar we know today. The original version had three sections: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Three tastes led to 3 musketeers. Rationing during WWII forced Mars to ditch the vanilla and strawberry chunks. Americans seemed happy to settle for the chocolate part, as it remained popular after wartime restrictions ended.
What about M&M? Americans were devouring pill-sized candy long before rapper Marshall Mathers appropriated his popularity by calling himself Eminem. The concept was taken from the candies eaten by soldiers during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. A hard coating prevented the chocolate from melting in hot climates.
When M & Ms debuted exactly 80 years ago in September, its name was taken from confectionery royalty. It was created using the first letter of the surname of Forrest Mars, son of legendary Mars Candy founder Frank Mars and Hershey Chocolate president William FR Murrie, who owned 20% of the proceeds.
Which brings us to the mother of all candy names.
When the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago introduced their Kandy Kake peanut, caramel and chocolate combination in 1920, it experienced what the makers of Kit Kat encountered. People loved the taste but hated the name. In 1921 he became Baby Ruth. It just so happened that a New York Yankee by the name of George Herman Ruth was scoring home runs to become a baseball superstar. So Baby Ruth was named in honor of Babe Ruth, right?
Oh no, Curtiss said with a straight face. The new name was actually a tribute to President Grover Cleveland’s daughter. Born in the White House in 1891, she was nicknamed “Baby Ruth”. The Americans of the time were captivated by the child, following his first words, his first steps, etc.
But believing Americans were motivated to shell out a dime for a candy bar named after a girl born 30 years earlier (and who sadly died of diphtheria at the age of 12) has stretched credulity. A more likely explanation is that Cleveland’s “Baby Ruth” claim was a cover story that prevented Curtiss from paying royalties to the Sultan of Swat.
By the way, Baby Ruth’s ancestor himself changed his name. Otto Schnering originally sold sweets under his last name for years. Until World War I, when having a Germanic last name was suddenly bad for business. So he adopted his mother’s maiden name, and it was now the Curtiss Candy Company.
What’s in a name, Shakespeare asked? When candy is involved, a lot!
The sacred cow! The story is written by novelist, former television journalist and history buff, J. Mark Powell. Do you have a historical mystery to solve? A forgotten moment to remember? Please send it to [email protected]