On May 10th, 2016 we learned about

A look at the lineage of the modern lollipop

Most anthropologists would argue that cooked food was the most important landmark in early culinary history. My children would likely disagree, instead pointing to the brave pioneer that first put sweet foods on sticks. While these convenient treats weren’t as refined as a modern Dum Dum, using a stick to retrieve and serve globs of honey kicked off the proud tradition of lollipops, clearly one of the cornerstones of modern civilization, right next to popsicles and corn dogs.

The slap of soft sugar

The evolution of sticked-candies progressed around the world, with the honey being used largely as a preservative. Since honey never goes bad, and tastes good, fruits and nuts were slathered with the stuff, then placed on sticks for to keep fingers clean. This proto-Tootsie Pop was the basic lollipop until the 17th century, when sugar finally became cheap enough to use on silly treats. These sweet snacks still weren’t what we’d buy today though, as the boiled sugar candy was soft, rather than tooth-crunchingly hard. It may have also been the first time the name was coined, as “lolly” referred to tongues, and “pop” meant slap. As close as this is to a modern sucker, there was still room for a lot of iteration in the world of tongue-slaps.

20th century competition

The early 20th century saw so many advancements in lollipops it’s hard to keep them all straight. In 1905, the McAviney Candy Company accidentally stumbled up on lollipop design by sharing the stirring sticks from hard candy production, eventually selling the “used candy sticks” in 1908. That same year, the Racine Confectionery Machine Company started the automated production of candy on a stick, although without any snappy marketing to make them really stand out. Samuel Born built the Born Sucker Machine to insert sticks in candy in 1912, but all these milestones were brought to heel by the Bradley Smith Company in 1908. Or was it 1931?

The Bradley Smith Company claims credit for inventing the modern lollipop in 1908, obviously among some competitors. Key to this iteration’s success was the name “lollipop,” which was officially trademarked in 1931. George Smith, the man behind it all, said the name was picked after a famous race horse, Lolly Pop. If the idea of licking something inspired by a horse isn’t appealing to you, keep in mind the horse may have well been named after the earlier candy. If that name is still unappetizing, an alternative history ties the candy to a Roma recipe for toffee apples on a stick, named loli phaba.

There are now multitudes of lollipop recipes in the world, but things have come full-circle to an extent. While we’re not using them as food storage so much anymore, you can still get honey lollipops today, although they’re now sold to help your throat, rather than sweeten fruit or nuts.

Source: The History of Lollipop Candy by Jon Prince, Candy Favorites.com

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