Anybody familiar with old-fashioned ribbon candy? It’s usually about an inch wide and curled in swoops like strands of ribbon. I loved looking at it as a child, but eating it - not so much. Had a strange taste to my palate. But something so pretty and colorful must surely be complicated to make. How and when did ribbon candy come into being? Let’s find out.
Though some evidence exists that a similar sweet may have been developed centuries ago in China, most of those who study such things place the candy’s origins in Europe in the 1800s.
But then, a dentist named Dr. Philip Benjamin Laskey invented the first mechanical candy crimper in Massachusetts in 1886. It was a hand-cranked device that let candy makers produce more ribbons without losing the ribbon shape.
Laskey patented the device, and his son manufactured them. Ribbon candy became a little more plentiful after that invention. (And no doubt it increased his dentistry business as well!)
With confectioners now able to buy their own crimper, the candy’s popularity exploded. It was still a somewhat complicated process to create the candy because the maker had to make the base in different colors, feed it manually into the crimper, then turn the crimper crank by hand. When completed, it was cut to desired lengths by scissors.
Because the process was still very labor intensive, ribbon candies remained somewhat uncommon despite its popularity. Then in the 1940s a spinner was created. An automated spinning machine did the job of spinning the colored candy that was crimped and then pieced with an air-activated cutter. Good-bye sticky scissors. That’s essentially the method that’s still used today
Next time you enjoy a piece of ribbon candy, give a thought to how difficult it would be to make without modern machinery and appreciate all the confectioners of the past that made it an art form. What’s your opinion? Do you like to eat ribbon candy or do you prefer to just look at it? I’d love to read your comments
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