Friday, August 21, 2009

New England Confectionery Company (NECCO)

The New England Confectionery Company was formed in 1901 when three pre-Civil War candy companies merged. Chase & Company, Hayward & Company, and Wright & Moody, all founded in the 1840s and 1850s, joined forces and built a huge manufacturing plant in Boston at the corner of Summer and Melcher, along the Fort Point Channel. (I would imagine it was located somewhere near the intersection of what are now Necco Street and Necco Court--I'll investigate on my next trip to Boston!)

When it was completed in 1902, the new plant was the largest factory devoted exclusively to confectionary manufacture in the US--it occupied four five-story buildings and took up five acres of floor space.

Two of the first products to roll out of the new factory were Sweethearts Conversation Hearts and the newly-rechristened NECCO Wafers. Both were made from the same batter--the wafers (previously called Peerless Wafers) had first been introduced to the public in 1847 by Oliver Chase--whose premier accomplishment was the invention of a lozenge-cutting machine.

Sweethearts (previously known as Motto Hearts) had started out looking more like fortune cookies with a "motto" stuffed into a candy shell. Then Oliver Chase's brother, David, began experimenting with printing the sayings directly on the candies. In the new plant, the candies were rebranded and assumed the shape and size they still retain today.

By 1904, NECCO candies were sold in every U.S. state, as well as in England, Europe, Australia, and South America. And during 1904 and 1905, NECCO began advertising with display cards in magazines.

In 1905, NECCO introduced a new candy known as Peach Blossoms--peanut butter in a crunchy peach-colored shell. Like the conversation hearts and wafers, this product is still available today.

In 1906, NECCO would go on to demonstrate its forward-thinking attitude and caring approach to its employees by introducing a profit-sharing plan for workers. After a quarter-century in their Boston plant, the company would move to Cambridge, where it occupied an iconic location on Massachusetts Avenue from 1927-2003, and then to Revere where it is currently located.

Today, NECCO produces 4 billion NECCO Wafers and 8 billion Sweethearts each year, using plants in Louisiana and Wisconsin in addition to the Revere plant. Other brands under the NECCO umbrella include Mary Janes, Clark Bar, Sky Bar, Haviland chocolate products, Candy Cupboard, and Canada Mints.


Much of the history in this post comes from the NECCO web site.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House 1905Sometimes it takes a while for a historical site to get respect! This postcard shows Boston's Paul Revere House in historic North Square in the North End of Boston in 1905. At the time it served as Banca Italiana and a cigar emporium by the name of F.A. Goduti & Co.

The North End of Boston had become a "Little Italy" during the previous couple of decades. Its population of approximately 25,000 had shifted from 4% Italian (and 85% Irish) in 1880 to 60% Italian in 1900 to 80% Italian by 1905.

Banca Italiana was one of many banks that served the growing immigrant community. One of its customers might have been Pietro Pastene's food shop, located right around the corner at 69-75 Fulton Street, which would someday became the giant Pastene Corporation, still today one of the country's oldest continuously operated family businesses.

The house had been built in 1680, and owned by Paul Revere and his family from 1770-1800. Then the house was sold out of the family, and became a tenement with ground floor shops.

In 1902, Revere's great-grandson, John P. Reynolds, Jr., purchased the building to protect it from demolition. Over the next few years, enough money was raised by the newly formed Paul Revere Memorial Association to renovate the building, and it opened as a museum in April, 1908. It was one of the first historic homes so preserved and opened to the public in the United States.

Click on the link in the first paragraph of this post to see the house as it looks today; you'll notice that the third story in the 1905 photo has been removed and replaced with the sloping roof.


I'm currently reading Stephen Puleo's The Boston Italians: A Story of Pride, Perseverance, and Paesani, from the Years of the Great Immigration to the Present Day (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007) which inspired this post.