Origins of ordinary things: Lollipop

Modern lollipops were invented in 1908. Net photo.

From a young age, people typically enjoy lollipops, a piece of hard candy on the end of a stick, but the pleasure they get when they are kids seldom fades away entirely. 

According to history spaces, food and candy historians speculate that the first primitive form of candy on a stick appeared quite by accident. Stone Age people were primarily hunters and gatherers and used sticks to scoop honey out of beehives. Licking the honey off these sticks qualifies as the first incarnation of what we know as the lollipop. 

According to History of Lollipops, George Smith, a candy maker from New Haven, Connecticut, took credit for inventing the first modern lollipop in 1908.  He was the owner of a confectionary company called the Bradley Smith Company and saw the monetary potential of manufacturing lollipops for the future.  Smith named the making of his boiled sweets mounted on a stick after his favourite racehorse, Lolly Pop. He then went ahead and trademarked the lollipop name in 1931.  The name “lollipop” presently remains a public domain.

The word “lollipop” which was sometimes spelled “lollypop” was used in the novels of such 19th century writers, like Charles Dickens. During this period, the term “lollipop” simply indicated a “sweet” that was “popped” into one’s mouth. The informal term for the mouth or tongue was “lolly”. So one popped a sweet into one’s mouth, or “lolly”. Thus, the term “lolly pop” (or, “lollipop”) came to be more commonly used in English. 

With the birth of automation in the early 20th Century, many companies found ways to improve lollipop production.  In 1908, in Racine, Wisconsin, the first automated lollipop production was brought to fruition by the Racine Confectionary Machine Company. They introduced a machine that could put hard candy on the end of a stick at the rate of 2,400 sticks per hour.

The owners of the company believed that they could produce enough lollipops in one week to supply the entire country’s demand for a full year.  Around the year 1912, a Russian immigrant named Samuel Born invented the Born Sucker Machine.  Born’s invention was considered so innovative in its ability to exponentially improve the production of lollipops, the City of San Francisco awarded him the key to the city in 1916.  Racine Confectionary Machine Company and McAviney Candy Company were considered two of the most famous companies that sold lollipops in the early part of the 20th Century.

Today, multinational global companies have the ability to produce approximately three million lollipops per day. Today lollipops come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, varieties, endless flavours and recipes. They can be a traditional hard candy on a stick like a hard candy on a ring, bubble gum or chocolate surprise centre. Some lollipops even spin, glow or whistle.