A Brief History of the “Lollipop.”

Jerry Anderson December 13, 2015 Comments Off on A Brief History of the “Lollipop.”
The “lollipop” is something we take for granted. It’s just there, in all its different forms, flavors and sizes. But as is so often the case, upon closer examination this simple, mundane object that is such a ubiquitous part of our candy culture has an engaging history. Such an uncomplicated and straightforward idea. But it has its origins buried in the past with many connections along the way that make the tale of the “lollipop” well worth telling. Let’s get started.

Food and candy historians speculate that the first primitive form of candy on a stick appeared quite by accident. Stone Age people were primarily hunters and gatherers and used sticks to scoop honey out of beehives. Licking the honey off these sticks qualifies as the first incarnation of what we know as the lollipop.

For prehistoric people it must have been a painful experience to dig into a bee hive with a stick or their hands. Ouch! But it tasted wonderful.
NOTE: minor digression
Remember the “beehive” hairdos of the 1960s?

Lots of hairspray needed to keep this look in place.

Now, Back to our story.

Fast forward to the early civilizations. Ancient Egyptians are given credit for creating the first “candy” by mixing nuts, fruits and herbs with honey and rolling the concoction into a ball to eat with or after meals (the first dessert?). Some food historians believe that these sweets were sometimes not eaten with the fingers but were skewered by the diner with a stick and then eaten. Honey is a sticky substance especially in the heat of an Egyptian day or evening so this makes sense from a convenience standpoint.This practice also marks another step in the long history and development of what would eventually become the lollipop.

Ancient Egyptians took an important step in the development of the lollipo.

By the 1600s in Europe sugar had become relatively common. Up through the Middle Ages sugar had not been readily available to Europeans and honey was the sweetener most commonly used. 17th century street vendors in London, England, sold a soft candy treat made of sugar mixed with water that they then boiled down into a small, firm but still soft mass and sold them on the street with a stick in them to make them easier to eat.

Charles Dickens. He mentioned the word “lollipop” in his novels. Not a surprise since his characters often moved amongst the streets of London with their vendors, thieves and squalor.
According to The Oxford English Dictionary the word “lollipop” first appeared in print in the January, 1784, edition of “The London Chronicle” newspaper. The word, at this point in history, referred only to sweets in general and not to candy on a stick. The word “lollipop,” which was sometimes spelled “lollypop,” was used in the novels of such 19th century writers as Charles Dickens. During this period the term “lollipop” simply indicated a “sweet” that was “popped” into one’s mouth. The slang/informal term for the mouth and/or tongue was “lolly.” So one popped a sweet into one’s mouth, or “lolly.” Thus, the term “lolly pop” (or, “lollipop”) came to be more commonly used in English. Again, it had not yet come to mean a sweet on a stick as we know it today.

Candy on the end of a pencil. This is something now referred to as a “pencil pop.” This development in lollipop history took place in the U.S. just before the Civil War.

Now, across the Atlantic to the United States in the 1850s. In the decade leading up to the Civil War it is believed that small pieces of sugar candy were placed on the ends of pencils for children to enjoy while they wrote. This is the first indication of an early form of the modern lollipop.

Example of a heart-shaped lollipop that can be placed on the end of a pencil for Valentine’s Day.
The act of uniting a pencil with an attached eraser was first done in the United States in 1858. Prior to this the eraser was separate from the pencil.

1858. Pencil and eraser, united at last!
In 1892 a confectioner by the name of George Smith decided to use the idea of putting a stick into hard candies and selling them to the public, especially to the parents of desirous, wide-eyed children. (Other historical sources state that candy on a stick was unknown in the U.S. until 1908. See story below.) He and his partner Andrew Bradley owned the Bradley Smith Company, a confectionary in New Haven, Connecticut. Again, the words “lollipop” or “Lolly Pop” were not used at this time to refer to the candy on the end of a stick that the company was supposedly producing.

George Smith’s partner Andrew Bradley. He and George would make lollipop history.
Also in New Haven, Connecticut, there was another confectionary company named the McAviney Candy Company. They made hard candies on a large scale, and because of this an unknown employee (or employees) of the company may have stumbled upon the idea for the modern lollipop completely by accident. According to this story, which took place in 1905, employees used wooden sticks to stir the boiling mixtures which would eventually become pieces of hard candy. At the workday’s end the sticks had accumulated numerous hardened layers of flavored candy on them.

After a day of mixing boiling solutions of sugar and flavorings, a wooden spoon was thickly coated with a delicious mixture of hardened, delightful candy.
This unknown employee (or employees) brought these sticks home for his/her/their children to enjoy. The idea caught the attention of the owners of the company and by 1908 they decided to start marketing these “candy sticks” to the public. However, it still was not called a “lollipop.” What a coincidence that this story should unfold in the same city where the Bradley Smith company was located. Take your pick of which one is correct.


Also in 1908, in Racine, Wisconsin, the Racine Confectionary Machine Company created the first machine that could put hard candy on the end of a stick at the rate of 2,400 pieces an hour, that’s 40 per minute. The owners of the company believed that their new, automated machine could produce enough pieces of candy (remember, they still were not called “lollipops”) in a week to supply the demand of the entire United States for an entire year.

A receipt for a candy order from the Bradley Smith Company dated May, 1907.

In 1931, finally, The Bradley Smith Company patented the name “lollipop” for their candy on a stick, which they or the McAviney Candy Company had been making since 1892, or 1908, depending on what version of the story you wish to believe. George Smith was a fan of horse racing and had a particular fondness for a horse named “Lolly Pop” who was one of the foremost racehorses of the era. According to company lore and history, this is how he came up with the name of his newly patented product. However, he changed the spelling and combined the words and created the trademarked name “lollipop.” Could this story be true? Historians still debate this important question. Or did the term really originate in the 18th a 19th centuries in England as a term referring to any “sweet” or possibly from the term “lolly” which was a slang term for “mouth”? Take your pick. We may never know.

The modern lollipop as we now know it finally arrives.

Unfortunately for the Bradley Smith Company, by 1932 the Great Depression was ravaging the country. With unemployment at 25% and many children suffering from malnutrition, there was not much of a demand for lollipops or other unnecessary sweet treats. As a result, the Bradley Smith Company ceased production of their candy creations, including the lollipop, and went out of business. Since they could not enforce their trademark for the “lollipop” any longer the term became a part of the public domain, meaning that anyone could now use the term for their candy on a stick products.

The Great Depression saw many children malnourished. A lollipop was a luxury only dreamed about. The Depression also caused the term “lollipop” to enter the public domain as a result of the failure of the Bradley Smith Company.

Many years ago I sat at my grandparents dinner table talking with them about the Great Depression and how they raised my mother and aunt during those difficult times. My grandparents lived on a rural Wisconsin dairy farm and at least had the ability to grow much of their own food.

But we had no money to speak of, my grandfather told me, and he proceeded to tell me the following story. What little money we had, my grandfather said, was spent on necessities such as sugar, flour and clothing. One day he took my mother and her sister (ages 3 and 5 respectively) into the nearby small town of Symco, Wisconsin, using a horse and wagon as transportation. After spending the small amount of money in his possession for needed items they passed the small local drugstore which was selling ice cream cones for 5 cents apiece. My mother and her sister tugged at my grandfather’s pantslegs asking, then pleading, for an ice cream cone. He explained to me that he had to say no to them because he had no money left. His daughters began crying, then weeping, in sadness.

We take for granted so many little things that were much appreciated by past generations.

It was a sad and quiet ride home. As he concluded his story I noticed that tears were running down his face (he was 88 years old). After over 60 years he still felt the pain of his inability to give his daughters such a simple thing as an ice cream cone. This is when I began to understand what living through the Depression really meant, its financial and emotional toll.

The lollipop got a big commercial boost in 1934 when a new child movie star, in one of her early films, sang a song which has since become familiar to generations of children, and adults. The 1934 film “Bright Eyes” starring Shirley Temple included a scene in which she performs/sings the song “On The Good Ship Lollipop.” Here it is. Notice the mention of many different brands and types of candy.


1) Shirley Temple was the first American to earn a million dollars entirely on her own, as a result of her own talent
and efforts.
2) Shirley Temple said that she stopped believing in Santa Claus when, as a child of six, she was brought to see him during the holidays and he asked her for her autograph!
3) Shirley Temple was the #1 box office attraction in Hollywood movies for three straight years, 1935, 1936 and 1937.

Lollipops were promoted again (product placement?), in 1939, when in one of the many great films of that year, three members of the “Lollipop Guild” present themselves to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” First, however, the “Lullabye League” appears. Enjoy!

By the 1940s the lollipop was becoming so popular that it was also causing some concern because children played with lollipops in their mouths and they sometimes fell, the stick pushing the candy into the palate of the child, causing severe injury. Thus, in the early 1940s, the “Saf-T-Pop” was introduced by the Curtis Candy Company (see my post of May 29, 2012, titled “Was There Ever A Real Baby Ruth”that deals with the history of the Baby Ruth Candy Bar and the Curtis Candy Company) that placed the lollipop candy at the end of a rope-like handle that was flexible and safe for children to eat while they were playing. Following is a picture of a box of “Saf-T-Pops” from the 1940s:

They were safe and only a penny!

The lollipop was quickly becoming one of the most popular candies in existence and began to be referenced in music and TV culture. In 1958 a female singing group known as “The Chordettes” from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, released a record that shot to number two on the music charts. It was called, simply, “Lollipop.” It is an iconic song from the late 1950s:

“The Chordettes” in a promotional photo, 1950s.

And here they are singing their hit song from 1958:

The lollipop continued to grow in popularity and was again referenced in a song in 1964 when Millie Small had a hit with her song “My Boy Lollipop.” Here is a vidoe from a 1964 TV show of her performing the song:

Then in the 1970s the lollipop was referenced in a hit TV series “Kojak.” Each time he solved a crime at the end of a show he unwrapped and put in his mouth a lollipop! (OK, it was really a Tootsie Roll Pop, but close enough.) I refer you to my post about the history of the Tootsie Roll dated February 5, 2012, for more information.

The lollipop/Tootsie Roll Pop was Kojak’s way of celebrating the resolution of a case.
Today, the Charms candy factory in Covington, Tennessee, is the world’s biggest producer of lollipops. Lollipops have become such a part of our culture that there are now a number of “lollipop” quilt patterns. The lollipop has crossed over into our folk and craft cultures. Here are a few examples of lollipop quilt patterns:


Lollipops in the shape of dice.
And how about these? A pair of “lollipop” earrings.

These are just another example how thoroughly the idea and imagery of the lollipop have settled into our culture. Now they can even be a fashion statement.
These earrings remind me of the picture of the “teddy bear jacket” that appears in my post “A Short History of the Teddy Bear.” Teddy bears are like lollipops. They are all around us and we are unaware of their unique and interesting history.

And lollipops remain one of the most popular forms of candy in the world, and come in many different brands and types, one of which is the following, shown at the beginning of this post.

The giant “Whirly-Pop.”
t’s been a long journey from prehistoric peoples scooping honey out of beehives to the embedding of the modern lollipop deep within the culture of the United State and other places throughout the world. Here is a video clip from the TV show “Cheers” in which two of the characters (Norm and Cliff) sing the song “Lollipop.” This scene was done 30-40 years after the song had made its initial debut but was still instantly recognizable by the audience.

Well, that’s all for now. Think I’ll go and get myself a “lollipop.” How about one of those tequila flavored lollipops with a worm, scorpion or spider in the middle that are popular in the Southwest U.S.? (This is for real. I am not making this up!)

The question must be asked. How many licks does it take to get to the insect inside a tequila flavored lollipop?

And speaking of tequila flavored lollipops, here is a video clip from Dick Clark’s Beech Nut Show on TV in May of 1958 when a band called “The Champs” received a “Golden Record” for selling over a million copies of their hit song “TEQUILA!” (which they then performed on the show). Enjoy.

Speaking of insects and food/candy, I found this picture of a grub/worm covered caramel apple that was sold at the Arizona State Fair in 2012. So the grubs and worms have moved from inside a lollipop to the outside of a caramel apple.

Actually, insects, worms and grubs are a good source of protein.

“Lollipop” is the longest word in the English language that can be typed on a computer/typewriter keyboard while using only the fingers of the right hand. This assumes that the typist has been traditionally trained and does not “peck” at the letters with two fingers as I am doing right now!

This begs the question, what is the longest word in the English language that can be typed on a computer/typewriter keyboard using only the fingers of the left hand? Again, assuming that the typist has been trained in a professional manner, that word would be “stewardesses.” (The word itself is almost archaic, having been replaced by the term “flight attendant,” a gender-neutral word, since both men and women presently perform this job.)

1950s United Airlines stewardess.

And, to end it all!

Selena Gomez enjoying a lollipop, taking a break from shooting a film or performing with her band.

Food and Candy, U.S. History Articles

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