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10 Gooey Facts About Milky Way Bars

There’s no mistaking that chocolate-covered combination of caramel and nougat. Developed nearly 100 years ago in Mars company founder Frank Mars’s kitchen, the Milky Way bar has since gone on to candy industry glory, with more than $100 million in yearly sales. Here are a few facts worth biting into.

1. IT ISN’T NAMED AFTER THE GALAXY.

The Milky Way bar is actually named after malted milk, a popular drink around the time it was first released, in 1923. Started as an infant formula in the late 1800s, malted milk was prized for its taste and reputed health qualities, and became a key ingredient in the malted milkshake, or “malt.” Eager to capitalize on its popularity, Milky Way’s early ads claimed the candy bar had “more malted milk content than a soda fountain double malted milk!”

2. THERE’S A FATHER-SON FEUD AT THE CENTER OF IT.

The Mars company claims founder Frank Mars developed the Milky Way bar along with his son, Forrest. But the truth isn’t quite so harmonious. Forrest grew up with his grandparents after his parents divorced in 1910, when Forrest was just 6 years old. Father and son didn’t see each other again for 20 years—oddly enough, when Frank had to bail Forrest out of a Chicago jail. The two worked together for a few years, until a falling out sent Forrest abroad to England, where he made his own name in the confectionery business, and eventually returned to the States to take over the Mars company. Throughout his life, Forrest would claim that even though his father had made the first Milky Way bar, it was his original idea.

3. THE FIRST BARS WERE HUGE.

And we’re not just talking in terms of popularity. Whereas today’s Milky Way bar is just over 1.8 ounces, the original Milky Way weighed in at more than 3 ounces. This provided a nice contrast to the popular Hershey bar. As Forrest Mars explained, “People walked up to the candy counter and they’d see this flat little Hershey bar for a nickel and right next to it, a giant Milky Way. Guess which one they’d pick?”

4. … AND TOTALLY SKIMPED ON THE CARAMEL.

To produce a giant candy bar for cheap, Mars filled his Milky Way with mostly nougat, which was (and pretty much still is) just eggs, sugar, and air. Over time, the company added in more caramel, and today Milky Way’s gooey, stringy caramel filling is a major selling point.

5. HERSHEY’S SUPPLIED THE CHOCOLATE.

In its early days, Mars (then known as Mar-O-Bar) didn’t have the money or the infrastructure to produce its own chocolate. So it contracted with competitor Hershey’s. That agreement lasted all the way up until 1965, when Forrest Mars abruptly terminated it in an effort to move all manufacturing in-house. The move caught Hershey’s completely off guard, which was not good since chocolate coating sales made up 30% of its overall revenue, and Mars the majority of that. Between 1966 and 1968, Hershey’s revenue dropped by more than a fifth.

6. MILKY WAY MIDNIGHT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED “FOREVER YOURS.”

A few years after introducing its original Milky Way bar, Mars came out with a dark-chocolate bar filled with vanilla nougat and caramel. For a few years, the company sold the two bars together in one package. Then in 1936, Mars branded the dark-chocolate bar Forever Yours, touting its “snowy-white nougat” and “fresh dark chocolate.” The name stuck until 1979, when declining sales prompted Mars to pull it from shelves. The bar reappeared in 1989 as Milky Way Dark, and in 2000 became Milky Way Midnight.

7. BUSTER KEATON APPEARED IN A TELEVISION AD.

The renowned silent film star played a billboard worker in this ad from 1961. Although not as spry as he once was—Keaton was well into his sixties at the time—he’s still able to pull off a convincing fall near the end of the clip.

8. IT’S A LOT DIFFERENT OUTSIDE THE U.S.

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In Europe, the Milky Way bar is smaller and contains only nougat filling, making it more like a 3 Musketeers bar. Head to Australia, and you’ll find Milky Way in flavors like bananas and berries and cream. The Mars bar, created in England by Forrest Mars (his father gave him the foreign rights to Milky Way), is closer to the American Milky Way, and is sold in Europe, Canada and Australia. A U.S. version of the Mars bar appeared on shelves until 2002, when the company replaced it with Snickers Almond.

9. THE EUROPEAN MILKY WAY FLOATS IN MILK.

To play up Milky Way’s lightness, Mars ran a series of ads in the '90s throughout Europe that showed bars floating in milk. Go ahead and try this experiment at home, kids!

10. THE FTC WENT AFTER MARS FOR ITS ADS.

Back in the '60s, Mars ran a TV ad that linked Milky Way bars to wholesome farm ingredients like fresh milk, eggs and corn. One ad showed a pitcher of milk turning into a Milky Way bar. A stretch? The Federal Trade Commission certainly thought so, and in 1970 issued a consent order (read: hand slap) reminding the company that mass-produced candy is not nutritionally equivalent to fresh milk. Despite this, Mars kept on linking Milky Ways with milk. This 1984 ad claims that each bar has the equivalent of a quarter cup of milk.

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Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Ice Age Human Footprints in Canada Reveal a Walk on the Beach Taken 13,000 Years Ago
Calvert Island
Calvert Island
Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute

The prehistoric mariners rowed their canoe into a secluded channel and then onto the island's sandy beach, just above the high-tide mark. One person got out of the boat and stood for a moment, facing northwest. Others, including another barefoot adult and child, followed the leader and walked toward higher, drier land.

Today, roughly 13,000 years later, their footprints have been preserved in a layer of sediment and confirmed to date from the last ice age. The discovery, on Calvert Island on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada, adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests ancient humans crossed from Asia to North America and traveled south along the Pacific shoreline.

"This finding provides evidence of the seafaring people who inhabited this area during the tail end of the last major ice age," said University of Victoria anthropologist Duncan McLaren, lead author of the new study in the journal PLOS One, in a statement.

Archaeologists on Calvert Island, British Columbia, Canada
Researchers Daryl Fedje (left) and Duncan McLaren (right) dig at the Calvert Island site.
Grant Callegari/Hakai Institute

Most anthropologists believe that early peoples migrated from Asia to North America across Beringia, the region where Russia's Chukchi Peninsula and Alaska face each other across the Bering Strait. Then the migrants took two possible routes. One popular theory, proposed in the 1930s, suggests people traveled south along an ice-free corridor that lay on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains where two colossal ice sheets split from one other. A more recent theory proposes that they sailed along a coastal route from Alaska to Washington State.

The coastal route lies within the territories of the Heiltsuk First Nation and Wuikinuxv First Nation. Their oral histories describe how the scattered islands between the open ocean and the edge of the ice sheet remained unglaciated. On these refuges, their ancestors subsisted on the abundant fish, shellfish, and marine mammals and likely used watercraft to travel between the islands. "Heiltsuk oral history talks about our people living in our territory before the ice age, and talks about the physical features of the landscape that our people witnessed change over time due to the ice, which influenced things like place names in our territory," William Housty, chair of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department board of directors, tells Mental Floss.

Archaeological evidence affirming the histories is scarce, in part because few researchers have focused on the area. In 2014, McLaren and colleagues from the University of Victoria and the Hakai Institute, along with representatives of the First Nations, began combing the beach at a Calvert Island site called EjTa-4 for sediments dating back to the late Pleistocene epoch (also known as the Ice Age, which ended 11,700 years ago). Back then, the sea level around Calvert Island was 6.5 to 10 feet lower than it is today, so the team concentrated on the intertidal zone. After probing several test holes, they found what appeared to be footprints near the base of a huge shell midden.

A 13,000-year-old human footprint on Calvert Island, British Columbia, Canada
A photo of Track #17 beside a digitally enhanced image of the same feature. Note the toe impressions and arch, which indicate that this is a right footprint.
Duncan McLaren

Over the next three field seasons, they continued to excavate a 6.5-foot-by-13-foot pit, removing strata of sand, pebbles, and organic matter before striking the layer of clay. "The site was below the high-tide water line, so we only had one day from the time we opened the last layer. When the high tide came up it would wash everything away," Jennifer Walkus, the research liaison between the Wuikinuxv Nation and Hakai Institute, tells Mental Floss. "We had an idea from the test pit the previous year that there might be footprints, so we knew that day was going to be busy. It was amazing as the last layer was pulled up and the measurements were taken."

In the substrate, the team found 29 individual human tracks, darkened by time, left by at least three different people—two adults and a child—based on the dimensions of the individual prints. "The fact that they were footprints was more and more obvious as the measurements came in and there were three lengths," Wallkus says. The orientation of some of the tracks at the ancient shoreline indicated that a group of people may have disembarked from a watercraft and walked northwest, toward higher ground, with their backs to the prevailing wind.

Researchers also collected samples of clay and fragments of shore pine from the sand underneath the prints. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the pine bits, and the footprints, were between 13,317 and 12,633 years old.

"I can't speak for the Nation as a whole, but for me, it's a validation of the fact that we have been here for much longer than the previous narrative," Walkus says. "The fact that these footprints put people in the vicinity in the time of glacial recession underlines that our legends are grounded in living in our area over huge spans of time."

When William Housty, who was not present at the dig, heard of the discovery, "I immediately started to think about our first ancestors and the stories of their origin," he says. "I also thought that, once again, science [and] archeology have confirmed what our oral history has been telling us all along."

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University of York
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
UK Archaeologists Have Found One of the World’s Oldest 'Crayons'
University of York
University of York

A prehistoric chunk of pigment found near an ancient lake in England may be one of the world's oldest crayons, Colossal reports. The small object made of red ochre was discovered during an archaeological excavation near Lake Flixton, a prehistoric lake that has since become a peat wetland but was once occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Though it’s hard to date the crayon itself, it was found in a layer of earth dating back to the 7th millennium BCE, according to a recent study by University of York archaeologists.

Measuring less than an inch long, the piece of pigment is sharpened at one end, and its shape indicates that it was modified by a person and used extensively as a tool, not shaped by nature. The piece "looks exactly like a crayon," study author Andy Needham of the University of York said in a press release.

A pebble of red ochre thought to be a prehistoric crayon
University of York

The fine grooves and striations on the crayon suggest that it was used as a drawing tool, and indicate that it might have been rubbed against a granular surface (like a rock). Other research has found that ochre was collected and used widely by prehistoric hunter-gatherers like the ones who lived near Lake Flixton, bolstering the theory that it was used as a tool.

The researchers also found another, pebble-shaped fragment of red ochre at a nearby site, which was scraped so heavily that it became concave, indicating that it might have been used to extract the pigment as a red powder.

"The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art," Needham said. "It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork."

[h/t Colossal]

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