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The Candy Making Past

With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect time to flip through candy-related trade catalogs. Today, with the mass production of products, we might not think about how things were made in the past. To make candy, ingredients needed to be grated, peeled, granulated, and cut. What machines performed that work? And how long did it take?

For a small glimpse into the candy making past, here is a trade catalog from 1874. The title is Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods from Thomas Mills & Brother,  located in Philadelphia, PA and established in 1864. This catalog gives us an idea of nineteenth century candy making machinery. It also includes images of moulds and patterns for candy.

title page of Thomas Mills & Brother trade catalog about candy making machinery
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, title page.

 

The Improved Cocoa-Nut Grater, shown below, was guaranteed to “thoroughly granulate every particle of cocoa-nut placed in the hopper.” There were two models. No. 1 used hand power. It grated 60 nuts per hour. But Model No. 2 used steam power which meant it could grate much more–200 nuts per hour.

Thomas Mills & Brother Cocoa-Nut Grater
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 10, Improved Cocoa-Nut Grater.

Candy might include almonds which meant the almonds had to be peeled. The Almond Peeler, shown below, was just the machine to help with that. It peeled forty pounds of almonds per hour.

Thomas Mills & Brother Almond Peeler, Ornamenting Syringe, and Candy Tongs
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 14, Almond Peeler, Ornamenting Syringe, and Candy Tongs.

Another ingredient might be eggs. Illustrated below is the Patent Egg and Sponge Beater. It was operated with a crank motion. This meant it could imitate the motion used by a person beating eggs by hand. The beater was made of stout wire, and both the can and beater were quickly removable. It had the ability to beat five dozen eggs in ten to fifteen minutes. The Patent Egg and Sponge Beater was advertised as a machine which could “be operated by any boy.”

Thomas Mills & Brother Patent Egg and Sponge Beater
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 15, Patent Egg and Sponge Beater.

Candy could also be a toy. Below is the side view of the Mills’ Excelsior Toy Machine. This machine made candy toys, or candy in the shape of fun toys, like animals, sailboats, rocking horses, and trains. It produced 33 different candy toys. Each candy toy had a flat base to stand upright.

Thomas Mills & Brother Candy Toy Machine side view
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 21, Mills’ Excelsior Toy Machine.

The Mills’ Excelsior Clear Lemon Toy Machine produced clear, striped, or pulled candy of 33 different patterns. It manufactured five hundred to one thousand pounds of toys each day “varying from forty to forty-eight toys to the pound.”

Thomas Mills & Brother Mills' Excelsior Clear Lemon Toy Machine
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 22, Mills’ Excelsior Clear Lemon Toy Machine.

Wondering what those 33 candy toy patterns might be? Take a look below for a few examples–a train, a rocking horse, a dog pulling on a boy’s shirt, a horse pulling a wagon with a dog sitting in the wagon, and more.

Thomas Mills & Brother candy toys
Thomas Mills & Brother, Philadelphia, PA. Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods, 1874, page 26, candy toy patterns.


Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods
and several other catalogs from Thomas Mills & Brother are located in the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library.

Interested in more candy? Take a look at previous posts highlighting candy toys from this same catalog, candy recipes from 1907, and Easter candy.

 

12 Comments

  1. Suzanne Osborne

    We have a Thomas Brothers candy making machine that has the name in Boston on the side and the address of 1303 North 8th Street Philadelphia PA. It’s an excellent shape we would love to sell it so if you can give us any information about whether or not you would be interested in acquiring it to put it on display or if you have any Avenues to sell it. It came out of our old home place from the 17 hundreds

    • Helen

      Hi Suzanne,

      If you are still looking to sell your candy making machine I’m very interested. I use antique candy equipment to make candy and preserve history. I’d really appreciate it if you could send me some photos and a price.

      Thanks so much!
      Kringlebing@gmail.com

  2. Jon Schmuke

    Suzanne, if your looking to sell the machine, I would be interested.

    Jon

  3. Steffan

    Hullo,I have a fine Thomas Mills improved verticle cutter and would like to send you images.
    It is for sale. It is located in Victoria,Australia

    • Hi Steffan,

      What an interesting find! We in the Smithsonian Libraries do not purchase items like this for our collection. You might want to reach out to our colleagues at the National Museum of American History: http://americanhistory.si.edu/about/contact

      Best,

      Erin Rushing
      Outreach Librarian

    • Helen

      Hi Stefan,

      I may be interested in purchasing your vertical cutter.
      I would appreciate it if you could send me some photos and a price.

      Thanks so much!
      Kringlebing@gmail.com

  4. Sheri sladwick

    I have an original hand hammared copper pot stamped with Thomas mills stamp with a #5 on it. It is very well preserved with a rich patina. Has iron handles and iron rod in rim. It is apx. 30in wide and apx 18in tall or possibly latger. It’s stamp is clear. It is in perfect condition for the right collector of thomas mills&bros

    • Helen

      Hi Sheri,

      I may be interested in purchasing your copper pot.
      I would really appreciate it if you could send me some photos and price.

      Thanks so much!
      Kringlebing@gmail.com

  5. Sloane

    Has any one come across a candy machine stamped with Jewell & Co Waltham, Ma or in some way related to him?
    Thanks,

  6. David Neil

    Hi. I work for the Habitat for Humaity and came across a Thomas Mills & Bro. stamped item that i have no idea what it is. Can you help? Will send pictures.

    • Alexia MacClain

      Hi David,

      If you’d like, you are welcome to send more information about your question to AskaLibrarian@si.edu

      Alexia MacClain
      Library Technician

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