Christmas Candy Boxes

Christmas Candy BoxesThe gift of a box of Christmas sweets is a time-honored tradition, popular with both young and old. Candy was often given to youngsters at Christmastime by Sunday school teachers, public schools, churches and civic groups as part of local festivities.

Commercially-made candy boxes were offered in Sunday school supply catalogs starting in the early 1880s. Fancy lithographed pasteboard boxes, in shapes such as an automobile or kitchen range, eventually gave way to the rectangular cardboard box printed in 4 colors. In 1902, the National Biscuit Company introduced a specially-designed red and green box with a circus theme. As a tie-in to the Christmas season, a short cheesecloth tape was added so that it could be hung on the branches of the Christmas tree. The relatively unchanged shape we know of as the animal crackers box is the longest-running design in continuous production.

Christmas candy boxes often had a string handle or flap and were shipped flat for later assembly. Once folded, they were typically filled with popcorn, nuts, cookies or biscuits, hard candy or a small toy. Both religious themes and secular themes were popular. Early motifs included the chimney brick, holly or poinsettia. As an alternative to hanging on the tree, “brick” candy boxes could be arranged to simulate a chimney or fireplace for stage decoration before they were distributed to the children.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog offered a variety of designs in several sizes to contain from two ounces to one whole pound of candy! The most popular size, with approximate dimensions of 4-1/4 x 3 x 1-3/4, was available for purchase in bulk and could be filled with up to 8 ounces of hard candy. In many cases, a title and/or number was assigned to each design by the manufacturer and was often printed on one flap of the box. Based on the numbering system,more than one hundred designs were issued in various sizes over the years! However, by the early 1970s, Sears offered only one candy box, featuring a stylized Santa coming head-first down the chimney.

Christmas candy boxes have long since disappeared from the pages of the Sears Wish Book and Sunday school supply house catalogs. But their colorful graphics and the nostalgia they evoke live on in our hearts and in our collections!

Christmas Candy Containers

Sweets for children at Christmastime have always been a ubiquitous part of the holiday celebration. So it’s little wonder that candy containers were made in all shapes and sizes, and from many different materials.

Christmas trees of the early 19th century were adorned with cookies, fruits and nuts, and cones where poeple could place small confections. Beginning around 1870, Dresden paper animal heads and other Dresden ornaments often came with small silk bags that usually held a single treat.

Out of the German toy industry in the 1880’s emerged figures made of cotton or paper mache that sat on top of boxes, snowballs, logs or some other form that could hold candy (such as ones made by the toy manufacturer, Heubach). Some of the more elaborate candy containers were extremely detailed reindeer or Father Christmas figures that separated at the waist, concealing a cylinder that held the candy. Some separated at the neck and the candy could be stored in the body. Still other Santa figures held candy in small baskets attached to their back or belt, or even transported their sweets in a wicker car or moss-covered sleigh.

Regardless of their shape or size, it’s fun to imagine the surprise and delight on a child’s face to find one of these treasures on Christmas morning.

Antique Toys Windups Games

Ives Walking Santa
A rare mechanical Ives Walking Santa Claus from the 1870s.

Besides the magic of the decorated Christmas tree, children have always looked forward to the toys left beneath the tree. For the boys there might be vehicles, locomotives, soldiers and drums. Besides a doll, a girl might receive a doll house, tea sets or a toy kitchen. There were also animals on wheels, Noah’s arks, teddy bears, and wondrous wind-ups which spun and danced, moved and flew when a key was turned! Boys and girls loved games too and often they were chosen for lessons of history, geography and other nations.

Strauss wind up sleigh
A rare Strauss wind-up Santa Sleigh toy

Toys were a reflection of the times in form and manufacture. The early toys were made of cast iron and tin, the paper goods hand colored, the vehicles horse drawn and the dolls all prim and proper with their many petticoats. As times changed and manufacturing improved, printing presses produced the color, and toys were made of painted or paper covered wood, stamped steel and metal alloys. Trains, autos and planes appeared, also electric and battery operated toys, construction and other building toys and dolls reflecting the more modern times. Games became more sophisticated featuring popular culture, celebrities and ideas.

Christmas Chocolate / Candy Molds

When you think about Christmas, what comes to mind? Visions of Sugarplums? Christmas Cookies? Christmas Candy? All of the above? Yes!! Especially that special Santa figure made of chocolate and wrapped in that pretty red and green foil. For generations children of all ages have dreamed of finding such a Santa in their Christmas stocking.

moldnew3Since the early 1800’s chocolate candy molds have been made in France. In 1832 the LeTang Family was selling molds to chocolate makers. In 1866 Hermann Walter molds were being produced in Berlin, Germany. In 1870 the famous mold manufacturer Anton Reiche opened his business in Dresden, Germany. The German manufacturers excelled at making fabulous chocolate molds with magnificent detail and in endless sizes and subjects. In 1880 an American company called Eppelsheimer of New York City began producing chocolate molds, and they continued to make them until 1947. Another American firm by the name of Jaburg opened in 1885 also in New York City and operated through 1951. More recent American companies are the American Mold Company founded in 1947 and the Allmetal Mold Company formed in 1946 which is still in operation.

moldnew11880 to 1930 were the glory days for the chocolate mold industry. Not just Santa molds were made, maybe even more popular were bunny rabbit molds. In fact, all kind of molds were made including people, fruit, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving, animals, swords, guns, turtles, fish, devils, and fairy tale characters. The variety was endless just like the mold sizes, which ranged from one inch to five feet!

Today a handful of manufacturers still produce molds. Within the last two years imports from China have appeared and online auctions are flooded with these reproductions.

Antique chocolate molds are fascinating works of art and they are beautiful pieces of nostalgia, full of history and folklore. They have that special vintage appeal that draws us back to childhood and sweet memories.