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An advertisement for Sparrow’s Chocolates, courtesy of the Boston Candy Museum at Spindler Confections.

The Sweet History of Cambridge

Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

A fantastic selection of candy boxes from Cambridge-based companies are currently on display.  This exhibition was curated by Nicole Hosette.  The items are on loan from items on loan from the Boston Candy Museum at Spindler Confections. 

The Sweet History of Cambridge
Cambridge’s candied past goes back to the early 19th century, when Isaac Lum opened the first confectionery in the city around 1820, on Broadway Street near Hampshire. His apprentice, Robert Douglass, opened his own confectionery in 1826 that went on to become the first large-scale candy manufacturer in Cambridge. One hundred years later, the industry reached its peak. By 1928, candy was Cambridge’s second largest industry, only behind soap. That year 26 candy factories employed 9000 workers who produced $15,860,000 worth of candy.  Over the next 40 years, the industry consolidated until only a few big players remained. Today, the only one still producing is the New England Confectionery Company, makers of the famous NECCO wafers. They moved their production out of Cambridge to Revere in 2004.

The following Cambridge candy companies are featured:

Page & Shaw
1888-ca. 1960
18-20 Ames Street

Page & Shaw, originally a small shop on West St. in Boston, opened their Cambridge factory on Ames St. in 1911. After earning international success, the company went bankrupt in 1930 and was bought by Daggett Co. in 1931. Page & Shaw chocolates were produced at least through 1960 when Daggett was bought by NECCO, but they stopped using the Ames Street factory. MIT bought the land and built a new structure, the Wiesner Building, in 1985.

Sparrow
1892-1934
62 Hampshire Street
814-822 Main

The Sparrow brand went through several transformations. From 1892 to 1907, it was operated by the H.F. Sparrow Co.; in 1907, ownership changed, and with that the name changed to Imperial Chocolates. Imperial merged with another Cambridge company, Lydian Confections, in 1908, and together they were renamed the Boston Confectionery Co. After this merger, the original factory at 62 Hampshire Street was sold to a box making company, and they moved candy production to 814 Main Street. But candy politics is tricky, and Arthur Potter, original owner of Lydian, split from the company in 1913. After a 1921 sale to H.D. Foss & Co., Potter bought BCC back in 1925. Finally, it was sold to Daggett in 1934.

Russell’s
1895- ca. 1930s
253 Norfolk Street

Elmer A Russell and his nephew Henry W Russell started Russell & Co. on Broadway in 1895, moving to the Norfolk factory after the first year. Due to poor health, the company was sold in 1927 to Apex Chocolates, a division of Daggett. Russell’s branded chocolates continued to be produced into the 1930s, but an exact production-end date is unknown.

Durand
1914-ca.1960s
40 Ames Street
Durand’s began as a candy and ice cream shop in Boston’s Post Office Square in 1914. Around 1929, Durand Company merged with Brigham’s, an ice cream manufacturer and seller, and moved operations from Boston to 40 Ames Street in Cambridge. The company stopped producing Durand branded chocolates in the early 1960s, and eventually the Ames Street property became part of MIT. Brigham’s continued to succeed in ice cream, and today still sells its products at grocery stores nationwide.

Deran’s
1929-present
134 Cambridge Street
Deran S. Hintlian began acquiring bankrupt candy companies in 1929, thus founding Deran’s Confectionery Co. After operating in Somerville and then Boston, Deran’s opened a factory on Cambridge Street. After Hintlian’s death in 1966, international corporation Borden bought the company in 1970. It was bought again by Great American Brands in 1993, and finally by NECCO in 1994. NECCO continued production at the Lechmere Square factory until 2003. One of Deran’s chocolate brands, Haviland, is still produced and sold by NECCO.

Gobelin
1930s-1950s
253 Norfolk Street
Gobelin originally operated out of the same factory previously owned by Russell & Co on Norfolk Street. Eventually they were acquired by Daggett, and their operations moved to Daggett headquarters on Main Street.

Cedar Cliff
Ca. 1940s
408 Main Street
Not much is known about Cedar Cliff Chocolates, including its founding or production years, but during the 1940s it was a part of Daggett Chocolates portfolio. According to city directories, operations happened out of Daggett headquarters on Main Street.
Cedar Cliff was at one point part of the Daggett Chocolates portfolio, and operated out of the Daggett headquarters on Main Street.

Other players not on display:
New England Confectionery Company
1847-present
254 Massachusetts Avenue
NECCO has a long history, but is best known for the NECCO Wafers, Sweethearts, Candy Buttons, and Clark Bars. They built a massive factory at Mass Ave and Landsdowne Street in 1927, which employed 1,300 people when it was built. At the time, it was the largest candy factory in the country. Over the years, they acquired other candy manufacturers, including many from Cambridge. They finally moved all production from Cambridge to a larger facility in Revere in 2003.

Daggett Chocolate Company
1892 – ca. 1960s
400 Main Street
Fred L. Daggett started the company in 1892 in Boston, and in 1925 consolidated several factories into a newly built factory in Cambridge. Along with NECCO, Daggett swept up other candy companies into their portfolio and eventually manufactured more than 40 brands of chocolates. Five of the companies showcased in this exhibit were eventually bought by Daggett. But after Fred Daggett’s death in the late 1950s, the company began to suffer and closed in the early 1960s. NECCO bought the equipment and recipes, and the land was sold to MIT.

James O. Welch Company/Tootsie Roll Industries
1927-present
810 Main Street
Today, the original factory of the James O. Welch Company, makers of Junior Mints, Sugar Daddies, Sugar Mamas, and Sugar Babies, is the last local factory still in operation. Tootsie Roll Industries, which began in New York in 1896 and adopted the Tootsie Roll name in 1966, bought the Welch brands in 1993, and today uses this factory on Main Street to produce Tootsie Rolls.

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