In my sweetest dreams Salem is Candy Land rather than Witch City, and it certainly has the heritage to claim that title (although Candy Land was a Milton Bradley game rather than a Parker Brothers production.) There are of course the famous Gibralters and Black Jacks, still sold at the Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company on Derby Street, America’s oldest candy company. Mrs. Spencer sold her hard candy from a horse-driven carriage, and her primary competition seems to have been the stationary confectioner John Simon, whose shop was stocked with a variety of syrups and sweets, everything from anise drops to peppermint. He was always announcing his “removal” to Boston but somehow never made the move. Before the later nineteenth century, however, most confectionary item were not sold by single confectioners, but rather by grocers and apothecaries, and their lists of available sweets became longer and longer with every decade. Nourse’s Fruit Store on Washington Street sold “calves foot jelly candy, strawberry jelly candy, sherbet candy, gum jelly drops, and “East India Red Rock Candy” and all sorts of candies made with the New England’s favorite ingredient, molasses. Confections got a bit softer in the later nineteenth century, when cream candies became popular, and then comes Chocolate!
The Theodore Metcalf Company, one of Boston’s most successful apothecaries, published a beautiful pamphlet on gibralters and black jacks but these were SALEM candies; Nourse’s advertisement, Salem Observer 4 November 1865; Trade cards illustrate the softer trend in confectionary consumption.
The decline of hard candy and the rise of chocolate seems to be a major trend, but candy customers still loved variety. The most successful, and very long-running, confectionary business in twentieth-century Salem was the “Palace of Sweets” on Essex Street, from which the Moustakis Brothers sold their “mastermade” (a patented term) confections. This business was in operation from 1905 until 1968, and after the Taft Summer White House in Beverly placed a series of larger orders it received—and marketed—the presidential seal of approval.
Moustakis Brothers’ Menu from the digital archives of the Culinary Institute of Technology.
Salem is still candy central, in fact two confectionary shops opened up just this past year: Curly Girl Candy Shop on Washington Street and the Chocolate Pantry on Derby, not far from Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company further down the street. And then there is the venerable and amazing Harbor Sweets, the manufacturers of my very favorite candy, Sweet Sloops. I don’t even really have a sweet tooth, and if I am going to indulge I prefer jelly beans to chocolates, but bring a box of Sweet Sloops into the house and I will not rest until they are gone!
The House of the Seven Gables and Ye Olde Pepper Candy Company sponsored the ice sculpture of Mrs. Spencer’s horse and carriage for the Salem’s So Sweet festival this past weekend: its position made it difficult to photograph but it’s much bigger than it appears in this photo! My beloved Sweet Sloops, available at Harbor Sweets on Leavitt Street in Salem as well as lots of other retailers.
February 14th, 2022 at 8:36 am
Donna, great review of Salem’s sweets, both old and new, and so appropriate on Valentine’s Day. Hope you receive some sweet sloops yourself.
February 14th, 2022 at 9:09 am
You too, Helen!
February 14th, 2022 at 11:20 am
I would also like to give a shout-out to the now-defunct Salem Old-Fashioned Candies. My grandmother worked for years at their little plant on Canal St.
February 14th, 2022 at 12:03 pm
Oh of course! Thank you for doing so!
February 14th, 2022 at 4:37 pm
President Taft’s girth was a huge endorsement for Nicolet Chocolates. (Pun intended.) Nice article, Donna.
February 14th, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Thank you, Paul! Happy Valentine’s Day!
February 14th, 2022 at 4:57 pm
Have visited and bought “tasties” from Ye Olde Peppermint Candy Company! Such a sweet discovery!! My husband has a sweet tooth galore and so, when my sister and I took a girls’ trip to Salem and Ipswich, treasures from that delectable store were his “souvenir.”
Happy Valentines Day, Donna!
February 14th, 2022 at 6:55 pm
The Moustakis family lived nearby at 9 Winter Street, and I remember the last member, an old “bach” like me.
February 15th, 2022 at 8:07 am
That’s good to know, thanks!
February 15th, 2022 at 9:19 pm
For a while, I was a dedicated fan of the Harbor Lights from Harbor Sweets.
February 25th, 2022 at 11:36 pm
I was born and grew up in Salem (on Pleasant Street) and love to read Streets of Salem. I’ve never commented on the many things I remember, like music lessons at Hamilton Hall and cooking and tap classes at The Gables, but I couldn’t hold back when you mentioned the Moustakis brothers. My mother worked at their shop on Essex Street, waiting tables and dipping chocolates before I was born in 1943. In fact, she was still in contact with one of the grandsons, Nicky, through Christmas cards, up until her passing in 1999. Thanks for the lovely memories.