Welcome and Happy Memorial Day Weekend. I hope the weekend finds you doing something enjoyable.
Today I’ve just listed a fun little item – it’s an advertising promotional from Kranz’s Candies of Chicago. But let me fill you in with the history.
This cute little hatchet/hammer has Kranz’s Taffies engraved on the hatchet blade. It was probably given out with a purchase of a pound of taffy and there was probably thousands of these spread out across America hundred years ago. But now, these are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Here’s the story of John Kranz (and a bit about Chicago, too).
The most basic details may be up for debate, but here’s what isn’t—Kranz’s shop was a wonderland. There were life-size animated swans. Kranz made sugar teddy bears and served chocolate sodas. But he was best known for his candy mice, which were made out of sugar and chocolate. He was world-famous and when the shop closed, the Tribune eulogized, “grope for your handkerchief, wipe away a furtive tear.”
John Kranz was born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. in 1860, and learned the confectionary business in Philadelphia before moving to Chicago in 1869. He first opened a shop on the West Side of the city, then headed to State Street. Kranz’s shop was probably located where Block 37 is today, and it was just one of many, many locations across the city that helped give Chicago the nickname the “Candy Capital of America”.
Chicago got its start in the candy business in 1837, the same year the city was incorporated. John Muir had a hard candy shop on South Water Street. Two years later, there were three candy makers. By 1871, there were 17. What about Chicago made it such a prime spot for candy to flourish? Location, location, location.
Being at a railroad crossroads meant that Chicago could easily get milk from Wisconsin, cornstarch and corn syrup from Iowa and Illinois, and sugar beets from Michigan. Cold winters meant that candy could be made seven months of the year. And immigrants settling here were bringing over tastes of their homeland.
“John Kranz has been one of the most successful manufacturers of confectionery that Chicago has ever had and this success is largely attributable to the fact that his goods have universally been of a high grade. During the early (1870’s) large quantities of cheap candy were placed upon the market and prices were cut right and left. The aim of the manufacturer seemed to be to give as much as he possibly could for the money. This state of affairs soon led to disastrous results and a number of makers of cheap goods had to retire from the business. John Kranz had his own ideas about these cheap goods and refused absolutely to enter into competition with them. On the other hand, he kept improving his product and asking a higher price for it. The result was that the wagon man and the retailer were both able to sell his goods at a fair profit and he built up a sound and ever-increasing business.”
By the time the store closed in 1947, it had a file of more than 2,000 standing orders from people all over the world.
This is a postcard for Kranz’s Candy Store dated 1909. It’s easy to see, even at this brief glance, the luxury and elegance of the day shown here in this postcard. My sweet tooth is vibrating in my head and my love of the Antique and Vintage world of yesterday dreams of being able to walk in the door of Kranz’s Candy Store and wander by the displays debating which of the temptations within should go home with me.
I was a bit disappointed as I was researching Kranz’s store and this hatchet – I had hoped to find collections of stories, information and photos as this man and his store were quite legendary in their day. I especially wanted to see the famous “mice” which were apparently sold “nestled in a beautiful, glossy box”, but no such luck. Still, it was a fun ride down memory lane and I love sightseeing in the past.
Here’s my shop link if you want to see a bit more of this clever little hatchet.
As always, I appreciate you joining me here on my blog and visiting my Etsy shop Old Raven. Until next time…Kriss