Sweet Truth
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The Fun, Secret History Behind Candy Corn and Other Sweets

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Sweet Truth
RiverRockPhotos/istockphoto

Sweet Truth

If you can think of a season or a holiday, a candy maker has thought of something sweet for you to buy in bulk when that time of year rolls around (and a dentist has appreciated the resulting cavities). Some of the world's most famous and instantly recognizable candies have surprising histories. Here's a look at the stories behind the sweets that would make the roster if candy had an all-star team. Want to know which sweets to stock for trick-or-treaters this year? Check out the most Popular Chocolate Halloween Candies Ranked from Worst to Best.

Candy Corn
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Candy Corn

Oct. 30 is more than just the night before Halloween — it's also National Candy Corn Day. Wunderle Candy first made the tri-colored, kernel-shaped goodie in the 1880s, and Goelitz Candy (now called Jelly Belly) took over production at the turn of the 20th century. Today it's a staple for trick-or-treaters everywhere. Though it has its haters, Candy Corn is so popular that special editions are rolled out for Valentine's Day, Christmas, and other non-spooky holidays.

Related: 25 Candy Stores That Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

Hershey's Bar
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Hershey's Bar

By 1893, Milton Hershey already owned a successful caramel company. That year, however, history changed forever when the legendary candy man arrived at the Columbian Exposition, also known as the World's Fair. There, he witnessed a chocolate manufacturing operation. He bought the entire thing and set it up in his existing factory. After several experimental innovations — including the addition of fresh milk — Hershey unveiled the milk chocolate bar in 1900. Are you a fan of other Hershey's treats? Discover 17 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Hershey Kisses.

Snickers Bar
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Snickers Bar

In the world of candy, the standard Snickers bar is the 800-pound gorilla. In 1930, Forrest Mars, father of Frank Mars, imagined a bar that was actually more confection than candy. While experimenting on his Tennessee farm, called Milky Way, Mars combined peanuts, nougat, and caramel to make a brand-new snack. He named it after his favorite horse, Snickers. It remains the best-selling candy bar in the world.

Related: How to Make Classic Childhood Candies

Reese's Pieces
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Reese's Pieces

Without Reese's Pieces, E.T. would almost certainly still be lost in the woods, and without a movie about a lovable alien, who knows where Reese's Pieces would be. The bite-sized candy was created in 1978 to capitalize on the success of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Four years later in 1982, "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" hit theaters. E.T. followed a Reese's Pieces trail to safety with his new human family and Hershey's followed a big-screen shoutout to global marketing success.

Conversation Hearts
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Conversation Hearts

In 1847, apothecary lozenges were all the rage. A new way to deliver medication — a precursor to our vitamin or CBD gummies — the chalky little sweets sent the medicine down without the foul taste. A Boston pharmacist named Oliver Chase then developed a way to make a perfectly even pastel candy wafers, and the New England Confectionery Company was born. His brother came up with the idea of emblazoning them with phrases inspired by sentiments found on a brand-new product known as Valentine's Day cards. By 1902, the candies were available in heart shapes, and until its shutdown last year, NECCO made 100,000 pounds of candy message hearts daily in preparation for Feb. 14. A company called Spangler bought the rights to revive those hearts; but Brach's makes its own. 

Cadbury Creme Egg
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Nonpareils
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Nonpareils

Nonpareils — you might call them by their familiar brand name Sno-Caps — are chocolate discs or drops dusted with a coating of tiny sugary balls, which are usually white but can be any number of colors. Although they are believed to have entered the American consciousness as decorations for wedding cakes in the 18th century, today they are nonpareil (that's French for "without equal") in terms of movie theater candy.

Jelly Beans
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Jelly Beans

Jelly beans are an absolute must in any respectable Easter basket, even though they rarely take top billing. Although no one can nail down the exact genesis of the jelly bean, which had entered the mainstream by the late 19th century, it's believed they were the result of experimentation with several different kinds of popular candies — most notably Jordan almonds and Turkish delights. During the spring holiday, America gobbles up 16 billion of the chewy, egg-shaped treats.

Candy Canes
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Candy Canes

Few candies are more directly associated with Christmas than the venerable candy cane. Folk legends say candy makers gave them their "J" shape in honor of the first name of the winter holiday's namesake or to resemble the shepherd's staff he was known for carrying. The truth, however, is that the centuries-old candy had nothing to do with Christmas until a German immigrant named August Imgard decorated a holiday tree in Ohio with the hard, minty treats in 1847.

Hard Candy
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Hard Candy

Unglamorous and often overlooked, the classic hard candy ranks near the bottom of the modern candy totem pole. But if you got your hands on a bowlful of individually-wrapped granny candies as a child in Ancient Egypt when candy first became a thing (featuring honey, rather than sugar), you'd be the coolest kid in the kingdom. Although Cleopatra and the pharaohs did have candy-esque sweet treats at their disposal, modern hard candies first came on the scene in the 19th century.

Lollipops
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Lollipops

Although no one knows quite for sure exactly when someone put a stick in a puddle of molten candy to create a handle when the candy cooled and hardened, lollipops are at least as old as Charles Dickens. The famed British author made reference to them in his novels in the mid-1800s. During the American Civil War, soldiers indulged in lollipops that were fastened to pencils instead of regular sticks.

Cotton Candy
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Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy contains just two ingredients: sugar and air (and, if you're eating it outdoors at a carnival or boardwalk, the occasional fly that becomes trapped in its web-like pink cloud). The first cotton candy machine was patented in 1897 by a confectioner and, less predictably, a dentist. Because it contains mostly air, a full serving of spun sugar contains just 105 calories.

Candy Apples
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Candy and Caramel Apples

Sort of like giant lollipops made of glazed tree fruit, candy and caramel apples took different paths to become fall carnival staples. Red candy apples were invented by a creative candy maker in Newark, New Jersey, in 1908, who sold them for 5 cents at the Jersey Shore. A Kraft employee invented the caramel apple in the 1950s, and the first caramel apple machine was patented in 1960. Both were the results of accidental experimentation with holiday sweets.