After grabbing a quick breakfast at Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts, second-oldest nephew and his friend and I headed to the waterfront. After a spin around the House of the Seven Gables and the house in which Nathaniel Hawthorne was born, we headed across the street to Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which opened in 1806 and is America's oldest candy company. A chance to get some edible souvenirs with a side of history? Can't pass that up!
According to their website, Ye Olde Pepper Companie began after Mary Spencer sailed from England to Salem and was left destitute by a shipwreck. Her neighbors donated supplies, including a barrel of sugar when they found out she was a confectioner. She made lemon and peppermint Gibralters, which are initially hard but then soften after several weeks and taste like an after-dinner mint. She first sold her candies on the steps of church and then with a horse and carriage. After she passed away in 1835, her son, Thomas, took over the business, but shortly afterward, he inherited a title in England and sold the business to fellow confectioner, John Pepper. Thomas and Pepper had worked together to create Black Jacks, molasses stick candy that would appeal to more masculine tastes to contrast with the feminine Gibralters.
Pepper's son, George, took over until selling his business at the turn of the 20th century to George and Alice Burkinshaw, who were, respectively, assistant candy maker and candy packers for Ye Olde Pepper Companie. The fourth generation of Burkinshaws still operate the candy shop today.
The left side of the building is where the candy is still made by hand today. The right side is the candy shop. October's high season in Salem meant a very packed store. There was basically only room to enter, walk around the center table, choosing wares along the way, exiting after a loop.
I saw horehound and other old-fashioned candies as I entered.
That's basically the whole shop!
Really cool to see these antique hand-turned candy machines.
There's a small sample of ribbon candy on the right so you can see what this machine makes.
It is New England after all so lobster gummy candies seems apropos. Beyond the windows, you can see where the candy gets made.
Not made in-house, but I couldn't resist getting a few containers of New Hampshire maple cotton candy from Ben's Sugar Shack. Light, fluffy, with maple goodness. The kids all loved them. Even us big kids liked it too. :)
I wanted to buy the creme de menthe chocolates, but at $10 a box, a bit too much for me.
Apparently, Oprah loves the turtles and I overheard a customer asking for them.
As for which candy company is the oldest in America? NECCO (New England Confectionery Company) of Revere, Mass., which opened in 1847, claims on its website to be "the country's oldest continuously operating candy company." Shane Confectionery, which opened in 1863 in Philadelphia, doesn't itself claim to be the oldest, but a Smithsonian Magazine article by Franz Lidz in the article, "America's Oldest Sweet Shop Gets a Hipster Makeover," asserted that Shane was "the oldest continuously operated candy shop in America." Uh, yeah, Lidz and Smithsonian's fact checkers might have done a little due diligence? Even if they somehow missed Ye Olde Pepper Companie, NECCO, famous for NECCO wafers and sweethearts and other candies, is a pretty large company to overlook.
In "Secrets of New England Cooking," by Ella Shannon Bowles and Dorothy Slemering Towle, per Wikipedia's article on Gibralters, Hawthorne wrote in a notebook that Ye Olde Pepper Companie's Gibralters had "been made by an Englishman named Spencer around 1822 and were sold by his mother, who drove a wagon from street to street. Their retail price was a silver penny apiece or four pence, half penny for seven." In "The House of the Seven Gables," published in 1851, Hawthorne might have based Hepzibah Pyncheon's little "cent-shop" on Ye Olde Pepper Companie, since the shop contained "a glass pickle-jar, filled with fragments of Gibraltar rock; not, indeed, splinters of the veritable stone foundation of the famous fortress, but bits of delectable candy, neatly done up in white paper."
The shop was so crowded, I just wanted out of there after grabbing the maple cotton candy, so I missed the famous Gibralters and Black Jacks. The Distracted Wanderer picked those up on her visit and has nice photos of the old-fashioned packaging too.
Posts in this series:
Lobster Shanty - Salem - Massachusetts
"Bewitched" Statue - Salem - Massachusetts
Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts
Ye Olde Pepper Companie (America's Oldest Candy Company) - Salem - Massachusetts
Ye Olde Pepper Companie (Two locations)
122 Derby St.
Salem, MA 01970
866-526-2376 or 978-745-2744
July to October 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
November to June 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1 year ago today,
2 years ago today,
3 years ago today,
4 years ago today,
5 years ago today, Dots Cupcakes - Pasadena (Old Town).
6 years ago today, Bo Nuong La Nho (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Grape Leaves).
7 years ago today, I didn't go anywhere, but my camera traveled to Hong Kong.