The Revolutionary Story Behind Mary Jane Candies

These small, molasses sweets have been around for more than 100 years, but beneath their sticky exterior, Mary Jane candies contain a revolutionary tidbit.

In 1884, Boston entrepreneur Charles H. Miller decided to try his hand at candy-making. Like many young businessmen, Miller didn’t have a lot of working capital when he entered the confectionary market, and so with no storefront or workspace, he opted to make candy in the kitchen of his own Boston home, with help from his three sons. After spending 30 years handcrafting candies in their home-based shop, Miller's son, Charles N. Miller, came upon the perfect flavor combination that would solidify the family name in candy history: a sticky mixture of peanut butter and molasses.

Mary Janes were sold out of dime stores as penny candies starting in 1914, and the Charles N. Miller Company thrived off of marketing the taffy-like sweets as being inexpensive treats. Early slogans persuaded sweet-tooths to “use your change for Mary Janes.”

Rather than naming the sticky candies after an historical figure or family pet, Miller chose to honor his favorite aunt by naming the chews after her. Or at least, that's the company line. Some have contested the validity of Miller’s name choice, suggesting that the story about his aunt is a lie and rather, Miller selected the name as a ploy for free advertising from the popular early century Buster Brown comic strip, which featured a character named Mary Jane. (While Buster Brown was created 12 years before Mary Jane candies—and the style of girls shoes actually are named after the cartoon lass—there’s no hard evidence to support this theory.)

The molasses chews were wrapped in yellow wax paper donning one red stripe, and featured a small girl named Mary Jane. Despite 100 years in production, the outside (and inside) of Mary Jane candies has remained virtually the same as when Miller first concocted the treat more than a century ago, except for specialty editions like full-sized Mary Jane bars, some covered in chocolate, and the occasional Halloween mix.

But besides his confections, what made Miller's Boston house-turned-candy shop so special was an earlier occupant, one who is best known in textbooks for his midnight ride that warned fellow colonists about incoming British Redcoats. That's right—American folk hero Paul Revere lived in the North End home at 19 North Square for 30 years (including in 1775, when he made a name for himself on that famous ride).

Fast forward more than 200 years, and Miller’s candy company was sold to Stark Candy in 1989. Within a year, the recipe and rights for Mary Jane were sold to NECCO, the same company that produces Conversation Hearts and NECCO Wafers. And in a move that brings the fun link between the candy and the legendary patriot full circle, NECCO continues to produce Mary Janes—unironically—in Revere, Massachusetts.

Even as an occasional dentist, we think that's a connection Paul Revere could rally behind.

Microwave Your Food Safely With This Soft Silicone Lunch Box

ParentDiary
ParentDiary

Even if the contents of your lunch are healthy, the container you pack it in may pose a threat to your health. Heating up some plastic food storage containers can release harmful chemicals, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics warns families to avoid putting such products in the microwave or dishwasher. (And there's still some debate as to what constitutes a microwave-safe plastic.) But the All-Silicone Lunch Box, a storage product currently raising money on Kickstarter, is strong enough to stand up to a range of temperatures, allowing you to safely put it in the freezer, the microwave, and the dishwasher.

This lunch container is made from silicone instead of plastic, making it a safer choice for kids and adults. The flexible box is easy to seal, open, and wash (either by hand or in the dishwasher). And whether you're using it to store leftovers in the freezer or heat up your lunch in the office kitchen, the All-Silicone Lunch Box is designed to maintain its shape and not leech anything unsavory into your food.

After originally releasing a single-compartment box, ParentDiary has now developed a lunch box with dividers, too. The container is now available with three compartments (perfect for snacks or bento boxes), or two compartments (with each side just big enough to fit half a sandwich).

The All-Silicone Lunch Box has over a month left to reach its $4000 funding goal and has raised $1000 so far.

Pledge $12 or more on Kickstarter by May 19 to reserve your own lunch box, with shipping set for June. For more packed lunch inspiration (including some other great silicone options), check out these products.

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The Joy of Breakfast: Bob Ross Cereal Is Here to Make Mornings a Little Happier

FYE
FYE

Bob Ross's sunny disposition is the perfect match for breakfast. The painter and television personality already has his own toaster, and now Food & Wine reports that he's also inspired a breakfast cereal.

Bob Ross: The Joy of Cereal channels the many landscape paintings Bob Ross produced on his television series, The Joy of Painting. It's loaded with toasted oat bites and colorful marshmallows shapes. There are seven distinct marshmallow pieces—happy little trees, happy little accidents, almighty mountains, guiding stars, rainbow hearts, charming little cabins, and lovely little bushes—but like a good artist, you may need to get creative to figure out which shape matches which description.

While starting your day with a bowl of Bob Ross cereal, you can further awaken your artistic side by looking at the back of the box. The package features a cutout “positivity paint palate” with inspirational quotes from the painter. Reading them first thing in the morning is the next best thing to watching reruns of the The Joy of Painting on YouTube.

Bob Ross: The Joy of Cereal is now available from FYE for $10 a box. For Bob Ross merchandise with an even longer shelf life, check out these products.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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