Whitman's

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An old ad from a wartime newspaper printed in France, circa 1918.

Whitman's is one of America's largest and oldest brands of boxed chocolates. Whitman's confections have been produced since 1842, originally by Stephen Whitman in Philadelphia and currently by Russell Stover Candies. The Whitman's Sampler, an assortment of boxed chocolates, is still popular.

History[edit]

Whitman's confections have been produced for over 160 years. Originally a "confectionery and fruiterer shoppe" set up in 1842 by 19-year-old Stephen F. Whitman on the Philadelphia waterfront, Whitman's first became popular with travelling sailors and their wives. They would often bring imported fruits, nuts and cocoa, obtained during their voyages, to Mr. Whitman so that he could make the popular European confections people craved in that era. Before long, Whitman's chocolates were popular throughout the northeastern United States.

Whitman's retail store on Chestnut St. in center city Philadelphia (1894)

Whitman's produced the first pre-packaged candy in 1854—a box of sugar plums adorned with curlicues and rosebuds. Whitman began advertising in newspapers shortly before the beginning of the Civil War and the business grew so large that in 1866 the company occupied an entire building at 12th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. In 1877, he introduced Instantaneous Chocolates in tin boxes that became much-admired.

Whitman's introduced the perennially popular and still best-selling Whitman's Sampler in 1912, marking the first use of cellophane by the candy industry, and in 1946, helped General Electric to develop a refrigerated display case to guard the product against warmer temperatures and extend the selling season through the summer months.[1]

In the early 1960s, Whitman's was purchased by Pet, Inc., a manufacturer of evaporated milk as part of the company's attempt to become a food products conglomerate.[2] In 1993, Pet sold the Whitman's brand to Russell Stover Candies, the major supplier of boxed candy in the United States.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the early 20th century, Pickaninny Peppermints were a popular Whitman confection. However, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and, at the time, NAACP lawyer took issue with the name. In a 1941 article directed at Whitman's published in the Afro-American, Marshall urged Whitman's Candies to realize its racial insensitivity. Whitman's denied that the term "pickaninny" was racist and responded to Marshall by saying that it meant "cute colored kid". The product was soon dropped.[4]
  • The company has maintained a longstanding tradition of supporting American servicemen and servicewomen during wartime. During World War I, millions of tins were shipped to American soldiers throughout the world. During World War II, women at the Whitman's production line secretly slipped handwritten notes of encouragement into candy boxes to help soothe soldiers' homesickness.[1]
  • The G4 spinoff of The Soup called Web Soup spoofs the Whitman's Sampler package with a segment called Mixed Nuts Sampler.[5][6]
  • Wacky Packages parodied the Whitman's Sampler brand as "What Man's Simple Candy".[7]
  • Whitman's Sampler was mentioned by Mama Harper in the sitcom Mama's Family in the episode "Birthright", which first aired on January 31, 1987.[8]
  • A Whitman's Sampler box appears anachronistically in the film Kid Blue (1973), which is set in 1900.[citation needed]
  • In the first episode of season 5 of "The Sopranos", title character Tony Soprano offers a Whitman's Sampler by way of sarcastic apology to associate Johnny Sack: "What do you want an apology? F#%$in Whitman's Sampler?"[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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