Clear Toy Candy / Barley Sugar History

What is clear toy candy? It's a hard candy that often shaped like everyday items, like boots, bunnies, dogs, horses and or even dishes.  They were traditionally given to children for Christmas so it could be a toy to play with and a sweet treat to eat. Originally they were not on sticks and only came in red, green and yellow (no added color).  Also no flavor was added to them.

When did clear toy candy start? That's a good question and I have been trying to find out for awhile.  I have found early references to "barley sugar" which is a term I have found most people today use interchangeably with clear toy candy. Most of the recipes for barley sugar are almost the same as the recipes, or receipts for clear toy candy.

Some early references state that barley sugar was used for medicinal purposes, like a cough drop.  In Domestic medicine, or, A treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by William Buchan (1790) that "When a cough is occasioned by acrid humours tickling the throat and fauces, the patient should keep some soft pectoral lozenges almost constantly in his mouth; as the Pontefract liquorice cakes, barley-sugar, the common balsamic lozenges, spanish juice, &c. These blunt the acrimony of the humours, and by taking off their stimulating quality, help to appease the cough."

Another early reference from The cooks and confectioners dictionary (1723) states "The Carmel boiling of Sugar is proper for Barley Sugar, and for a certain small Sugar Work Called by that name, which is described in its proper place."

Most of the recipes for barley sugar call for the candy to be made into strips, not molded into shapes.

At some point people started calling barley sugar, clear toy or candy toys.  It seems that it was with the development of the candy molds that could handle the high temperatures. We know molds were patented in 1866 by Thomas Mills but I have a receipt from Thos. & WM. C. Fry of Philadelphia dated Dec 23, 1850 for "10 Candy Toys at 18 cents each".  In today's world with inflation that would be  would $4.59. This candy would have been just in time for a Christmas treat for the children.

One of the earliest recipe I could find in print for clear toy candy was in "The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use, Consisting of a Series of Menus for Every Day Meals and for Private Entertainments, with Minute Instructions for Making Every Article Named" Originally Published in the Chicago Daily Herald By Jessup Whitehead. 1883.  The candy here is called "222. Candy for Christmas Toy's, Ect."  The same recipe was republished in "The American Pastry Cook" By Jessup Whitehead, Katherine Golden Bitting Collection on Gastronomy. 1894

For those that could not afford the expensive molds there was an alternative, make your own molds out of plaster of paris. Here are the directions on how to do this from "The American Pastry Cook" 1894 how to make "Plaster of Pairs" Molds for candy.



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