In the late 1700s, German immigrants brought one of their favorite holiday traditions to America: Clear Toy Candy. The immigrants originally settled in Pennsylvania, and their recipes are traced back as early as 1772.
The hard, clear candy was originally called "barley candy" because cane sugar was hard to come by, so early candy makers used the cheaper and more readily available barley sugar. However in 1818, cane sugar became more accessible, and barley sugar lost its appeal. The name, "Clear Toy Candy," became popular because of the whimsical, toy-like shapes of the candy.
In the 1800s, children in Pennsylvania would eagerly await a sweet surprise in their Christmas stockings. The Clear Toy Candy would double as a toy gift and a treat. Each piece of the clear toy candy was shaped into toys that children could play with before eating like trains, ships, or animals. The Clear Toy Candy was a special gift for Christmas morning because not only were sugared treats rare during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the process of making the Clear Toy Candy was difficult outside of the winter months.
The candy is made by mixing a special mix of sugars with water, heating the mixtures to a very specific temperature, and then pouring it into metal molds in the shapes of toys. The candies were usually unflavored, but some were colored in reds, greens, and yellows for the holiday season. However, the candy was finicky and temperamental, to say the least; even the weather can impact the quality of the Clear Toy Candy. To create sparkling, clear, and pure Clear Toy Candies, the weather needs to be dry and preferably below 45℉. Because the candy makers only made Clear Toy Candy during cold weather to prevent the cloudiness caused by heat and humidity, the candy became a special Christmas tradition.
One of the earliest clear toy candy makers in the United States was William Startup. He learned how to make the Clear Toy Candy from his father in England. He continued this European tradition in the United States when he founded the Startup Candy Factory in Provo, Utah in the mid 19th century. The cold and dry Utah winters were perfect for candy-making. Today, Clear Toy Candy is a vintage holiday tradition that Startup Candy Co. continues to carry on for families who wish to celebrate one of the earliest Christmas traditions in America.