Uncovering Thanksgiving’s Forgotten Confectionery Past!

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you’re all enjoying the day with loved ones, great food and good times.

In spite of the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t known for its confections, I’ve hunted far and wide to come up with a piece of Thanksgiving-themed candy packaging to share, and I’m happy to report that I have succeeded in that quest.  Beyond unveiling that unusual item in today’s post, I’ll also be talking a little bit about the history of Thanksgiving candy – because as I’ve learned, it’s more connected than you might have ever guessed.

Two years ago I unveiled what was, at the time, the only piece of truly Thanksgiving-themed candy packaging I had in my archives.  That was a 1970’s Whitman’s chocolate-covered marshmallow turkey and here is the wrapper in question:

Whitman's - Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Turkey - candy wrapper - 1979

Whitman’s – Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Turkey – candy wrapper – 1979

As you might guess, coming up with items like that one isn’t easy.  The reasons are simple; manufacturers just don’t put out Thanksgiving-themed candy packaging very often, if at all, and who could blame them?  It’s just not considered a candy holiday.  Sure, there’s plenty of autumn-themed candy packaging going around and there have even been a number of dinner-themed bars produced in the past, but finding pieces specifically tied to the Thanksgiving holiday?  They’re just not out there.

Because of their scarcity, it should come as no surprise that it’s taken me two years to come up with a second Thanksgiving-themed candy package to share.  But come up with one I did, and I’m excited to unveil it to you today.

This one comes from the 1980’s and the Russell Stover company.  Once again it’s for a chocolate-covered marshmallow turkey, and since Russell Stover actually owned Whitman’s by this time, it’s probably the exact same confection that produced the earlier wrapper.  Here it is:

Russell Stover Candies - Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Turkey - 1 1/2oz Thanksgiving  foil candy wrapper - 1980's

Russell Stover Candies – Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Turkey – 1 1/2oz Thanksgiving foil candy wrapper – 1980’s

Pretty neat, don’t you think?

Now, that was all I had originally planned to cover, but a few days ago I came across a fascinating article over at The Atlantic that prompted me to amend those plans.

Within that article, Megan Garber presents a well-researched look into Thanksgiving traditions dating back to the late 19th century.  The piece reveals how dressing up in costume and receiving candy was actually a part of the Thanksgiving tradition back then.  Among the anecdotes Garber uncovers was one describing how the Thanksgiving holiday had become a boon for the candy trade:

“Candy stores, vertically integrating, began to sell costumes next to their spiced jelly gums and crystallized ginger—thus helping to turn a practice into a tradition.”

Keeping in mind that this was decades before Halloween would embrace the tradition of Trick-Or-Treating and giving out candy, Garber’s Thanksgiving write-up presents a pretty revelatory bit of information.  Learning about it certainly blew my mind.  It’s an excellent article so if you’re curious to learn more about Thanksgiving’s forgotten confectionery history, I encourage you to check it out. 

And that’s it for today’s post.  It’s not an overwhelming amount of candy goodness for the Thanksgiving holiday, but when it’s all so scarce, even a little bit can be considered a relative feast.

One final note.  As I was short of time and materials, I pulled today’s Thanksgiving-related title image from a non-candy related item in my collection.  It’s a 1960’s holiday register topper from McDonald’s.  I’ve got a few of these in my collection which I’ve shared over the years on my Flickr pages.  They’ve all got fantastic illustrations on them so it’s always fun to be able to put one to use.  They ARE snazzy.

And that’s everything for today’s article.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I’ll see you next time!

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About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
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