Necco: An Epic Candy Tale by Darlene Lacey explores the history of candy, the family of brands saved by Necco, and the people who made it happen. I am a fan of Darlene’s online museum at CandyWrapperMuseum.com which curates some of the world’s best candy wrappers such as Necco and others. The wrappers bring such joy to the youthful side of me when I go through her site. As a kid, I loved candy and reading comics. What a thrill to see Darlene’s new book project on Necco.
“Have you ever thought back to a sunny day long ago, sharing candy with your best friend? Have you ever wished you could step back in time and live that day again? Bringing back those memories is my mission as curator of the Candy Wrapper Museum.” –Darlene Lacey
Imagine my thrill when a magical portal to a time long ago arrived on my doorstep thanks to Jeffrey S. Green, Necco’s one-time vice president of research and development. During the move from Necco’s Cambridge headquarters to Revere, he had the wisdom to save a precious piece of New England’s confectionery history from being lost forever in the trash. Nestled within the yellowed pages of a giant-sized scrapbook was a painstakingly annotated collection of Necco candy wrappers and ephemera that had not been seen since the days when customers bought them at their neighborhood store.
A careful preservation and restoration project began. My husband Joe started by photographing each page to create a reference before the contents were removed. He lined up any contents that had fallen out to match them with the notes. We then transcribed the notes to get everything in digital form before finally removing the contents.
As we worked to preserve this almost-lost piece of Necco history, we became convinced that we should share it with the world in a book. I began poring voraciously over old books, magazines, trade journals and newspapers for details large and small about Necco’s past. The more I learned, the more I realized that Necco’s history is tied inextricably to the history of dozens of Cambridge and Boston confectioners, all with their own rich histories.
This “family tree” also extends beyond New England to Wisconsin, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia, the United Kingdom and Canada. Some names are still well-known, while others have faded in fame. With my book, I am ensuring that the names live on. These include Chase & Co., Wright & Moody, Fobes Hayward & Co., Lovell & Covel, The Daggett Chocolate Co., Page & Shaw, F.H. Roberts, Sparrow, Gobelin, Squirrel Brand, the Deran Confectionery Co., the Norris Candy Co., John Mackintosh & Sons, Lowney’s, Cumberland Valley, Candy House, Charles N. Miller, D.L. Clark, the American Candy Co., the Ziegler Candy Co. and Howard B. Stark.
I have given the book the title “Necco: An Epic Candy Tale,” for it surely is. One of the most profound and recurring themes I have found is the dedication, ingenuity, imagination and love that the people working in candy factories gave to keep businesses going, only to have their hearts broken the day the doors closed – often suddenly. Generations of families often worked together, with so many longtime employees that Necco celebrated them in its Quarter Century Club.
With this project, I have worked hard to fact-check company histories and discover details and stories. I have interviewed former Necco workers and fellow candy historians. My extensive research has required more than 1,000 sources to verify stories, date the packaging, describe long-defunct candies, uncover people’s life stories and explore the larger context of the world while events were taking place at Necco. I am compiling a list of every Necco candy that I could track down. The list totals more than 700, and I am sure that I am missing many more.
Darlene Lacey is a California candy historian and author of pop culture history books. She began collecting candy wrappers in the 1970s for her Candy Wrapper Museum. Her story and collection have been featured on major media outlets and programs including Time, Bon Appetit, Parade, Smithsonian Magazine, the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” and the podcast “Something You Should Know.” Follow her at candywrappermuseum on Instagram and CandyWrapperMuseum on Facebook. You can visit the online museum at CandyWrapperMuseum.com.
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