Necco is gone now, but for a long time it was the oldest continually operating candy company in America. (That honor now falls on Doscher’s). They created some iconic candies and got so big that they bought other candy icons. Necco had a long and great run.
Here is a timeline breakdown of the life of the New England Confectionery Company, or NECCO.
It all starts with a lozenge cutter. In 1847, a patent is granted for this new invention by English-born Oliver R Chase, then 26-years old. This kicked off not only (eventually) Necco, but the American candy industry at large finds its roots with Chase and Company, the business formed by the young entrepreneur and his brother Silas.
It was the Industrial Revolution. Ideas for automating with rudimentary machinery were booming. The sewing machine and rotary printing press had recently been invented. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were born in 1847.
Chase had been making lozenges by hand for apothecary shops, and – true to the times – he invented this machine to keep up with demand. Chase and Company are the first company of a group that would eventually comprise Necco.
Another candy company is formed by Daniel Fobes and Joseph Ball. They call it Ball and Fobes, which is the second company of a group that would eventually comprise Necco.
A patent for pulverizing sugar is granted to its inventor, Oliver Chase of Chase and Company.
After working to perfect its making, Ball and Fobes introduce a new type of candy to America: Oriental sweets. These would become Turkish Delights.
Boiled sweets that are popular in England begin to gain traction in America when William Wright introduces what we now call “hard candy.” Wright and fellow confectioner Charles Bird form a company called Bird, Wright and Company, the third company of a group that would eventually comprise Necco.
Display advertising for candy in shops gets its start when Daniel Fobes begins providing colored illustrations of scenes from the Orient for his Turkish Delight candy products.
The first candy industry acquisition.
Ball and Fobes acquires a local confectioner in order to expand its product offering. Albert Webster’s candy company provides Ball and Fobes with a lozenge candy and other lower priced candies. Ball and Fobes become a more well-rounded confections company.
Chase and Company goes West. At that time, Chicago was considered pretty far west. Oliver Chase’s brother Daniel takes the lozenge cutter machine, now named the Chase Lozenge Machine, to Chicago to take advantage of sales to the growing territories out West.
Joseph Ball retires from Ball and Fobes.
Daniel Fobes invites the Hayward Brothers, Daniel* and Albert, to join his business. The new name is Fobes, Hayward and Company.
*side note: if Daniel seems like a very popular name in the 1800s, it was actually only ranked #31. Popular with parents of future confectioners though, for sure.
Conversation Hearts’ origins are released to the world to much fanfare in the form of “Conversation Candies.”
Daniel Chase figured out how to print letters on little pieces of candy wrapper, which did not start out in the shape of hearts. “Cockles” were shaped like scallop-shells – it was a different time, these things were more synonymous with appetizing treats then.
Printing of letters directly onto the candy would have to wait a few more years, but “Conversation Candies” were very popular and helped propel Chase and Company to greater heights.
Daniel Fobes invents “Mocha.” The latest in a string of patents for Daniel Fobes, this new combination of beverage and confectionery flavors mixes coffee and cocoa.
William Wright’s candy company becomes Wright and Moody after his son-in-law, Abner J. Moody returns from fighting in the Civil War. The new partners specialize in candies packaged for children as well as gumdrops and other novelty candy products.
Fobes and his Fobes, Hayward Company start to advertise themselves as wholesale candy makers and wholesale dealers of “Sugar Toys.”
Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and The Great Fire of Chicago destroy Daniel Chase’s western branch of Chase and Company. Chase returns to Boston where he is acquired by Fobes’s company, mostly for his “Conversation Candies”.
Another fire, this time in Boston, destroys the building of Oliver Chase. Chase subsequently partners with wealthy businessman, T. Pickering Drown. Drown was an importer of Chinese goods.
Founding of The Confectioner’s Journal in Pennsylvania.
Steam power is demonstrated at an exposition in Philadelphia and the candy industry makes a strong showing. Many new candy making machines, including some from Chase and Company, are on display and powered by steam.
It is clear that the candy industry has grown significantly in the last few years.
Daniel Fobes retires and his son, Edwin, is introduced into Fobes, Hayward and Company. Edwin Fobes was moved up slowly, but eventually becomes president years later.
The Clark bar’s origins emerge. D. L. Clark starts making candy in the back bedrooms of his old house in Pittsburgh’s North Side.
After a string of irreputable candy makers, the National Confectioners’ Association is established in order to bring together trustworthy candy makers. Their goal was to keep the industry pure. It’s first treasurer is Abner Moody.
The origins of Mary Jane’s emerge when Charles Miller and his sons begin making candy in the North End of Boston. They started out in the home of Paul Revere, who had lived there until 1800. Mary Janes would come later.
Fobes, Hayward and Co start to build and sell machines that make candy.
Oliver Chase retires. T. Pickering Drown becomes the new president of Chase and Company.
Chocolate candy becomes scalable. The automatic enrober machine is invented. It applies chocolate coatings to candy centers and fillings like fondant. Mass production of chocolates becomes way more viable.
NECCO Sweets becomes official.
The New England Confectionery Company is formed when three competing candy-makers combine: Chase and Copmany, Fobes, Hayward and Company, and Wright and Moody. The oldest of which dates back to 1847.
NECCO has a starting capital of $1 million, which would be over $26 Million in today’s money.
The newly united companies move into a new building together. The corner of Summer and Melcher Streets in Boston was their new home and manufacturing plant. It was the largest candy manufacturing facility in America with a total of 5 acres of floor space, including each of the 5 stories in all four of their buildings.
Necco products are sold across America, Europe, Australia and South America. They have begun advertising using display cards inside magazines.
Lenox Chocolates are announced.
There are nearly 800 employees now, many have been with Necco and its founding companies for 25 years or more. Necco starts an employee proft-sharing plan based on a percentage of annual earnings for each employee.
Necco Wafers and Hub Wafers start advertising.
Necco Wafers reach the Arctic. Massachusetts-born explorer Donald MacMillan brings Necco Wafers long with him on his expedition to Northern Greenland. Though the expedition was later deemed a failure, Necco Wafers helped keep their spirits up. They also introduced them to Eskimo children.
Mary Janes hit the scene. Charles N. Miller Company begins production of Mary Janes candy. It was named after his favorite aunt, Mary Jane. But she’s not the girl who is featured on the Mary Jane wrappers.
Necco puts out this ad for help wanted to wrap Necco Wafers.
The Clark Bar arrives. D.L Clark starts making the candy bar for 5 cents. It ships to soldiers fighting in World War I.
Necco is one of the first companies in America to insure the lives of all employees. Over 1200 people are affected. They require no medical nor physical exam and ti doesn’t change anything about Worker’s Comp benefits. Converage started at $500 when they had worked 3 months, and went up $100 every year until $1000.
Necco’s 75th anniversary. Oliver Chase had founded what would later become Necco in 1947.
To celebrate, Necco honored people who had been working there for long periods of 37 or more year. Some had worked there 53 years. It also makes good on its profit sharing deal, doling out cash bonuses that total more than $110k, which is more than $1.65 million today.
Necco moves into a new plant near the Charles River and MIT. At the time, it was the largest candy factory in the world. Its entire space is utilized for making candy.
It used the most cutting edge technology of the time for temperature control as well as making candy as efficiently as possible.
Windsor Confectionery Company in the Somerville neighborhood of Boston was acquired by Deran Hintlian, as was the Murray Confectionery Company. They begin producing sugar panned almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts and chocolates.
Necco acquires Lovell and Covel and their Chocolate Masterpieces candy and quality specialty chocolates. Lovell and Covel products are sold independently of Necco products.
Thus acquisition makes Necco a “general line” candy maker, an industry term that means they make candy of all levels: penny candy, five cent candy, bulk candy and high end packaged candy.
Deran Hintlian moves to Cambridge, MA to move into a bigger location.
Necco sets up Necco Sales Corporation of New York City to carry out distribution of all Necco candies in New York state.
Sky Bar comes on the scene, with much fanfare that included skywriting.
It is the first molded chocolate bar, featuring 4 distinct fillings surrounded by chocolate covering. It’s nickname is the “Candy Box in a Bar.”
An old Sky Bars Chocolate mold.
The Howard B. Stark Company is founded.
Howard Stark used the machinery he bought from American Candy Co out of Milwaukee to continue to product the Snirkle candy bar and expend into other lines as well.
Candy Cupboard Chocolates are released at department store G. Fox.
Necco supports the war efforts for WWII by turning over part of its factory to the manufacture of materials for the war. It utilizes its candy manufacturing capability to produce rations and special emergency products for the Allied forces.
For three years during the war, Times Square was under blackout and curfew as a precaution against potential aerial bombing attacks. When they were lifted on VE-Day, more than 250,000 New Yorkers came to see the lights come back.
Necco had one of the only six signs with lighting ready to operate. It was a billboard for Sky Bars.
As the war effort concludes, Necco returns to normal candy production. Another factory modernization gets underway to make it once again a world class state of the art factory.
100 year anniversary of Necco.
Beatrice Food Co. acquires D.L. Clark’s candy company.
Necco starts making ROLO candy for US distribution in a partnership with English candy maker Macintosh. They had previously begun distribution of Quality Street Chocolate as well.
Necco is bought from the heirs of its original founders.
New York holding compnay UIS, Inc. acquires Necco and takes it through a rough period where seven presidents preside.
As part of company restructuring, Domenic Antonellis arrives at Necco and holds a number of different positions over a ten year period.
“Necco Kid” ad campaign hits the airwaves as Necco pushes Necco Wafers, Sky Bars and Canada Mints.
Domenic Antonellis becomes the youngest president of Necco. He will go on to be the longest serving as well.
Necco acquires Cumberland Valley brand and Gum Products company, Candy Buttons comes along with this purchase.
Mary Janes becomes a Stark.
Howard B. Stark Company buys the parent company Charles Miller Company out of Watertown, MA and takes ownership of Mary Janes products.
Grandson of founder Howard, William Stark sells the business and the company named is then changed to Stark Candy Co.
Necco acquires Candy House brand candy buttons from Mel Goldberg. This makes Necco the sole manufacturer of candy buttons style candy in the US.
Necco acquires Stark Candy Co., the owner of SweetHearts candy conversation hearts.
Necco’s Sweet Talk had been the other major conversation heart candy on the market, thus Necco would now become the overwhelming market leader. They decide to use the Sweethearts brand name.
D.L. Clark company is acquired by Pittsburgh Food and Beverage from Leaf Inc.
Necco acquires what was formerly Deran Candy, and at this time was called Borden Candy Products. It renames is Haviland Candy.
Necco acquires a portion of Glen Candy Company that includes its peanut butter kisses and salt-water taffy products, which it rolls into its Mary Janes line.
“Fax Me” appears on a Necco SweetHearts conversation heart, and the media goes wild.
D.L. Clark Company changes hands again, this time purchased by Jim Clister. It’s renamed Clark Bar America, Incorporated.
Necco purchases Falcon Candy Company, expanding further into the peanut butter kiss and salt water taffy verticals.
With its 150th anniversary coming up, Necco commemorates with the painting of the Water Tower on the roof of its building on Massachusetts avenue. It is painted to look like a roll of Necco Wafers.
150 year anniversary of Necco.
An industry-wide celebration is held in the Chicago Water Tower.
Necco acquires Clark Bar America, Inc. The Clark Bar becomes a NEcco product. Production moves from Pittsburgh to Boston. It has since returned to Pittsburgh.
Necco moves to Revere, MA and into a large new facility that will unite its three former factories into one, and also include more warehousing space. The new facility is said to be over 800,000 square feet.
Necco acquires a license for Squirrel Nut Caramel Chews and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Squirrel Brand Company dates as far back as 1888. It was founded in Boston and moved to Cambridge in 1914.
In March, an announcement from Necco’s CEO that the factory may shut down if a buyer isn’t found for the financially troubled company soon sparks The Great Necco Wafer Panic. Long time fans of Necco candy products are said to panic buy the products in case they are discontinued.
Later that year, the factory is closed as Necco is sold off and it’s brands are bought by a number of different competitors in the industry.