Classy and Colorful Candy Containers

By Betty MacDuff

What are candy containers? Candy containers are small toys made of glass that were filled with tiny candy pellets. The candy is held in the glass by metal strips, screw caps or cardboard inserts.

Candy containers began in the late 1800s with the first two documented pieces being shaped like Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell, both dating to the Centennial Exposition in 1876 in Philadelphia, Penn. By the early 1900s, manufacturing of candy containers was in full swing. These new glass toys, designed to appeal to children, also became a collectable for adults, primarily because of the wide range of designs. The shapes were historical in nature, war-related, holiday-themed, comic strip characters, animals, doll bottles and furniture and much more.

After the candy was eaten, little boys could play with a 3-piece New York Central Train or Overland Limited; they could run cars, buses and trucks through the sand, or play cowboys and Indians with a glass gun. War-related items such as tanks, jeeps, ships and airplanes were certainly in demand for playing Army. The girls could buy a nursing bottle for their doll, Flossie Fisher metal and glass furniture for their dollhouses, telephones, lamps and lanterns, rolling pins, irons, or cups for drinking.

The holiday designs for Christmas (Santa Claus), Easter (rabbits, ducks, chickens), Halloween (jack o'lanterns, pumpkin-headed policemen and witches) and other special holidays inspired another whole group of collectors.

Rabbit Family, $1200 and Swan Boat with Rabbit and Chick, $700.

Close inspection of these glass toys reveals the intricacies of detail that went into the design. In the early years, a craftsman would create an individual mold for each design. The glass part of the container was then either pressed or blown into the mold one at a time, and then after cooling was hand painted by women. How time consuming!

The Depression stopped production from 1929 until about 1939. Then manufacture started to pick up again in 1940. During the war, production was switched to an automated assembly line, as the demand was so great that factories couldn't keep up. Thousands could now be made in a day. The scarcity of metal during this period caused closure material to be changed from metal to waxed cardboard, cork stoppers and wood. After the 1950s, plastic replaced the glass as a cheaper material. Some of these later pieces were manufactured with whistles made of plastic attached to a cardboard tube. Eventually, all manufacture stopped less than 100 years after it began.

These highly sought after glass toys were sold at railway stations and 5 & 10 cent stores, through mail order catalogs, such as Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and at souvenir stands.

Most of the manufacturers were located in a very small area of Pennsylvania, in Jeanette and Grapeville, due to the abundant supply of natural resources needed in the manufacture of glass. The major manufacturers operating during the height of the industry from this area were: West Brothers Co.; T. H. Stough; Westmoreland Specialty Co.; Westmoreland Glass Co.; Jeannette Glass Co.; Victory Glass Inc.; L. E. Smith; J. H. Millstein; and J. C. Crosetti Co.

My husband, Leigh, and I starting collecting candy containers in the early 1970s. Like most collectors of glass, digging in old dumps was somehow involved at the inception. In our case, my mother had dug a chicken and a rabbit in her back yard, and even with cracks, we fell in love with them, and as they say, "the rest is history."

We enjoyed searching for them as they were cheap, and having lived in southern New Jersey, they were plentiful. On a teacher's salary raising four children, we didn't have a lot to spend. We would go to an antique show, and after having walked the entire place, we would have to decide which ones we would buy for the less than $20 we had to spend. Sometimes that amount got us three or four pieces.

Thirty years later, our collection numbers 500+ pieces. It is hard to believe that we have collected that many.

Now retired and living in Florida, we have to rely on private auctions and online bidding. Prices today have increased due to the lack of availability, their fragility, and the increased number of collectors. The bidding online gets hot and heavy at times when a particularly rare piece is listed. The prices range anywhere from $25 for the very low end common ones up to $5,000+ for the hard to find. Here are some recent prices paid for rare candy containers: country club bus, $2,255; 1920s refrigerator (very rare piece) $6,050; metal bungalow village building with glass insert $2,090; Statue of Liberty, $7,200; and kaleidoscope (one of a kind) $22,425. Prices of some common pieces: 1028 locomotive $30; beaded lantern, $25; nursing bottle, waisted, $30; and telephone, Victory Glass Co. dial type, $40.

The advent of the Internet has made the world smaller, opening up a worldwide marketplace to the collector without leaving home. We have since found glass candy containers from Argentina and Uruguay, Europe and Japan.

The Candy Container Collectors of America was organized in 1984 to promote candy container collecting internationally, to educate and inform those who collect, and to encourage new collectors. The bi-monthly newsletter, The Candy Gram, provides news and information on candy containers and related collectibles. Each issue contains photographs, some unusual or rare. Dues are $25 per year, which includes receiving the newsletter, The Candy Gram, and eligibility to attend the annual convention.

For information, contact Jo Baldwin, Box 1971, Anderson, IN 46018, 765-643-7065, or visit the club web site: http://candycontainer.org/index.html.


Our thanks to Betty for this article. You can contact her by email at epmac27@comcast.net or call her at 352-753-7795 to discuss candy containers.

2003
 

Santa Candy Container

Large Santa with metal screw-on closure on base from Argentina, $300, 1930s. 8 1/4" high and weighs 1 3/4 lbs. empty.


Goblin Head Candy Container

Goblin Head, $600, ca. 1920, 3 9/16" high.


Pumpkin Head Jr. Policeman (r.), $1,200, ca. 1920, 4 5/16" high. Manufacturer not known. Grotesque head with policeman or fireman hat, goggles, coat and boots.


Liberty Bell Candy Container

Liberty Bell candy container , $125. Marked "1776-Centennial Exposition-1876," Croft Wilbur & Co. Confec-tioners, manufacturer.


Independence Hall, $350. Souvenir of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 with a coin slot in roof.

 

 

 

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