🎃 Candies of the Halloween season have roots in the sweet treats and real horrors of the Great War.
In 1918, a girl named Bernadine Cox sent a postcard to her brother, then serving in France. She wrote, “Don’t suppose we’ll have much Halloween here on account of the epidemic and suppose you have enough Halloween every day on No Man’s Land for every person.” It was a reminder of the dire circumstances that came at the end of the war: The second wave of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic was hitting major U.S. cities, while service members were hunkered down in trenches across the Western front, facing illness and death.
When World War I broke out, candy had no real connection to the spooky season, which instead focused on macabre imagery, parades, parties and Halloween night pranks. It was more about “tricks,” than “trick or treating.” However, within a generation, Halloween would become a candy season, and the roots of Americans’ love of manufactured candy trace back to WWI itself.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans developed a reputation for a sweet tooth. Home cooks across the country prepared caramel recipes. Most towns had a corner store at which penny candy or a confection made in-house might be purchased. By the early years of the 20th century, industry transformed the manufacturing of food products, and names like Hershey, Necco and Mars, among thousands of other confectioners, became household names.
Many candies were initially marketed as being healthful. The burgeoning field of nutritional science was beginning to unpack the importance of calories and vitamins. Because of the need to mobilize the country to prepare for war, the U.S. government was paying special attention to perceived nutritional deficits among young men, and candy offered a ready solution.
When the United States joined World War I in April 1917, officials thought the additional calories in sugar might help soldiers go the extra mile. Service members were issued, gifted and could purchase candy.
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Source: Lora Vogt – National WWI Museum/Memorial) – Washington Post
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