foreign (and often dangerous) land.
In 1900, America’s candy manufacturers boasted $100 million in invested capital and an annual business in candies and sweets that exceeded that of beer, wine and liquor combined. A British newspaper declared that Americans “make their sweets as we make our bread, practically for a day’s consumption.” In the days before the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, this extraordinary demand for all things sweet attracted swindlers, quacks and crooks.
The damage done was fathomless. I uncovered article after article about children sickened and killed by adulterated candies throughout the 1890s and early 1900s. Techniques used by manufacturers were often beyond the pale. Some candy was found to contain fusel oil (an ingredient used at the time in lacquer solvents). Other manufacturers cut their honey with glucose, brightened candies with the use of aniline colors (used in the manufacture of the precursors to polyurethane), and added terra cotta (a clay more often used to make bricks) for bulk and color. In 1900, the Committee on Manufactures of the U.S. Senate found that condensed milk was among the most commonly adulterated products--except for perhaps extracts of fruit and vanilla, so suspect that only one manufacturer was even willing to allow a factory inspection.
|A headline from the April 24, |
1895, front page of the New
York Evening World.
We commiserate among ourselves today about how fast our world moves and how abrupt change can be. By that, we often mean the next iPad or app, the newest software we have to learn, or the amount of email in our in-box. But not so long ago, the world could take an abrupt and devastating turn by a simple trip to the store for a handful of penny candy.