By the mid-20th century, Chicago was known as the candy capital of the country. What began as modest operations in the mom-and-pop kitchens of European immigrants eventually grew into a large industry. By 1940, Chicago candymakers produced some 556 million pounds of candy per year. Chicago had all the ingredients for confectionery success. It had a skilled, diverse workforce. It was in the sweet spot, too – conveniently located in the heart of the country. It even had (though this may surprise Chicagoans who have endured many a cold winter) the right climate, with cooler temperatures more ideal for making and shipping things that had a habit of melting before refrigeration was common.
“Chicago becomes this mecca for people that have some candy-making skills, some chocolate-making skills. You know how to make dragées from Italy, nougat from France. You’re skilled in hard candy from England,” Beth Kimmerle, author of Candy: The Sweet History, told Chicago Stories. “What happens is that’s reflected in the candy. I mean, literally, the copper pot becomes the melting pot of candy.”
From the crunchy and the sticky treats to the chewy and the chocolatey ones, the iconic confections that came from Chicago’s candy companies became … Read more