The American Civil War killed hundreds of thousands of people and was one of the first indicators of what modern technological advances could do for the military and military action. However, it also allows for the development of medical equipment and a variety of innovations that serve the civilian part of society – including the creation of the modern candy industry.
The nature of the Civil War is such that the United States is essentially divided into two; North and South. A large part of the national industry is located in the North and it is supported by the Union Army. Meanwhile, the South owns the agricultural part and is supported by the Confederate Army.
The Confederate army suffers badly from poor logistics, which means it is difficult to feed its troops. Although the South has managed to produce food, it has become increasingly difficult to transport as equipment has been destroyed, and the lack of large-scale industrial facilities has made it increasingly difficult to replace it.
On the other hand, the Union Army is well fed and supplied, which is largely due to the extremely efficient work of the Maintenance Department. In fact, they were so well stocked that the soldiers could even enjoy sweet candy after a long day in battle.
In 1847, more than a decade before the start of the Civil War, the English immigrant Oliver Chase invented the first American candy machine. With the creation of this machine comes the creation of Necco Wafer (pictured) – small disc-shaped cakes.
Chase’s sweets proved popular, and he and his brother Silas Edwin teamed up to form Chase and Company.
Already well-sold, the candies gained a huge boost in popularity when they became part of shipments for soldiers in the Union Army after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. They are ideal food for the army because they are small, easy to transport. , tough and does not degrade like other foods. And the fact that they have a sweet taste would certainly give the troops a little psychological boost during battle.
Union troops also receive jelly beans and Jordan almonds. Jordan almonds are much older than even Necco candies, potentially dating back to the 15th century.
The widespread consumption of these candies means that many soldiers return home as loyal customers.
However, it was not until 1900 that the candies received their current name. Chase and Company merged with Forbes, Hayward & Company and Wright & Moody in 1901 to form the New England Confectionary Company, or Necco for short.
By 1912, their main product became known as Necco Wafers. Necco also sells other types of sweets, but wafers remain the most popular. The following year, Donald Macmillan took them with him on his Arctic expeditions, where he shared them with Eskimo children.
In 1930, two tons of some wafers went on an expedition to the South Pole, as their long-lasting qualities are useful in severe conditions. World War II will serve as another powerful driver in the consumption of candy, as they re-enter the battle with troops. The US government actually commissioned Necco to produce them for soldiers fighting around the world – bringing Necco Wafers to thousands of people outside the United States.
Similar to what happened after the Civil War, Necco saw a huge increase in its sales after World War II as they gained many new loyal customers.
The delicious candies remain on sale until 2018, when Necco declares bankruptcy. Fortunately, the company was bought by Spangler Candy Company, which puts the sweets back into production.
Photo: Boston Now, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons