Jelly beans first hit public shelves in 1861.The strange candy was advertised by William Schrafft, the same man who invented Schrafft’s candy company and sponsored the 1959 CBS telecast of The Wizard of Oz. When first sold, the jelly bean was marketed as a gift to send to soldiers fighting in the Union Army during the Civil War and was considered to be a “penny candy”. However, the candy didn’t catch the eye of the regular American consumer until 1930, when its association with Easter began to expand.
In the 1800s, the average American diet consisted of beans and vegetables, which is likely what inspired the shape of this candy. The jelly center of a jelly bean is believed to come from the Turkish Delight, and the shell is said to descend from the process of panning. Panning was invented during the 17th century and was the process of tossing a candy in a pan of sugar and syrup in order to create a candy shell. The candy was then sold by weight in general stores and taken home in paper bags by the citizens of America.
Despite its boost of popularity in the 1930s, jelly beans hit the peak of popularity in the 1960s when Ronald Reagan endorsed the candy, saying that jelly beans got him off of his nicotine addiction. Later, when he became president, it is said that he kept a jar of jelly beans in every room of the white house.
Much like how it is impossible to talk about happiness without bringing up Dolly Parton, it is impossible to discuss the history of the jelly bean without acknowledging Jelly Belly. The Jelly Belly factory is located in Fairfield, California and is visited by tourists from across the US. First created in 1976, Jelly Belly quickly grew to become one of the most well known jelly bean brands in the world. Today, it has become popular for its outlandish and peculiar flavors such as, black pepper, soap, grass, and dirt. Even without these nauseating flavors, the brand Jelly Belly can be found everywhere from gas stations to candy shops.
If you feel eager to celebrate this bizarre confectionery, national jelly bean day is April 22, along with national day of silence, national girl scout leaders day, and national earth day!
The jelly bean has been a strange part of US history, from the civil war to Ronald Reagan, it has become an active and concerning part of the development of America.