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The History of Salt Water Taffy

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Salt Water TaffyMost everyone loves salt water taffy, a classic chewy, sweet treat that makes everybody smile. But did you ever wonder when and how this iconic candy was first made? We know we have, and that’s why we’re here to bring you the sugary sweet history of Salt Water Taffy!

Salt Water Taffy is a variety of soft taffy originally produced and marketed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, beginning in the late 19th century. The most popular explanation of the name is that of a candy-store owner, David Bradley, whose shop was flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy was soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water. Shortly afterward, a young girl came into his shop and asked if he had any taffy for sale. Mr. Bradley jokingly offered her some “salt water taffy.”  After sampling a piece, the girl purchased the candy and proudly walked down to the beach to show her friends. Bradley’s mother was in the back of the store and overheard the whole conversation. She loved the name “saltwater taffy”, and that’s what it was called from then on.

Making Salt Water Taffy

Salt Water Taffy Pulling Machine

Taffy was first cooked in copper kettles over open coal fires, cooled on marble slabs, and pulled from a large hook. The “Taffy Pull” was a household enjoyment on Saturday nights as well as an Atlantic City enterprise. The process of pulling taffy adds air to the corn syrup and sugar  mix.  First the puller got  the taffy to about a 5 foot length, then it is looped over itself on the hook, trapping air between the two lengths of taffy. This process of aeration helped to keep the taffy soft. The pulled taffy was shaped by hand-rolling it on marble or wooden tables. It was then cut to a 2-inch length with scissors and, finally, wrapped in a pre-cut piece of wax paper with a twist at both ends. All of this was done by hand and usually within the sight of boardwalk strollers.

Whatever the origins, Joseph Fralinger really popularized the candy by boxing it and selling it as an Atlantic City souvenir in about 1886. Fralinger’s first major competitor was candy maker Enoch James, who refined the recipe, making it less sticky and easier to unwrap. James also cut the candy into bite-sized pieces, and is credited with mechanizing the “pulling” process. Both of the competitor’s stores still operate on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Today’s taffy is cooked in large stainless steel or copper kettles and then vacuum cooked a second time. The pulling and packaging is now done with machines. This produces much more taffy at greater speeds.

Salt water taffy is still sold on the boardwalks in Atlantic City, nearby island Ocean City, and other tourist beachfront areas throughout the United States and Canada. It is also, of course, sold online at BulkCandy Store.

Ingredients

Salt water taffy is composed of sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, flavor, and food coloring. Contrary to popular belief, the taffy contains no actual sea water. However, it does contain both salt and water.

Where can I get saltwater taffy?

Peach Salt Water Taffy
Peach Salt Water Taffy

Salt water taffy is available all over the U.S., most commonly sold at dessert shops, ice cream shops, and candy shops, of course! At BulkCandy Store, we have a gigantic variety of flavors, including Peach, Licorice, Grape, Vanilla, Tutti Frutti, and Key Lime with Coconut Swirl, just to name a few. And good news! All of our salt water taffy collection is Kosher! So don’t wait, try a piece of this delicious chewy oldie but goodie treat today, and find out for yourself why these candies are still around after over 100 years!

You can find out loads about ALL candy and their sweet histories at our History of Candy Tour, where we take you back in time to the ancient Egyptians all the way to what candy is today. So if you’re crazy about candy, (come on, who isn’t?) definitely come on in to our retail store and experience the evolution of your favorite treats!

Updated 10-16-19

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By Ken Shenkman

I am one of the owners of Bulk Candy Store, a true omnichannel candy store. We have a retail store in West Palm Beach, FL., a website at bulkcandystore.com and state fairs and festivals across the U.S.

19 replies on “The History of Salt Water Taffy”

Hi! My name is Chip. I am in eighth grade. I am doing a project for school on taffy. Do you by chance know how much that specific taffy puller in the picture might cost?

Hey Chip! That machine is a confectioner pulled. They cost about 5,000 to 7,000 USD depending on the attachments. Good luck on your project 🙂

The first salt Water taffy was not a machine it was Between two Gentleman pulling and twisting the candy

Hello, Chip, it has been quite a while since you asked this question. I hope you , your family and friends are all very well. The best source for information on real salt water taffy, the original cylinder shaped taffy, not the round, fake taffy that tastes like nothing from Salt Lake City is from Shriver’s in Ocean City, N.J. The real salt water taffy originated in Atlantic City, N.J. Shriver’s is the oldest still running salt water taffy and fudge stores in in Ocean City, N.J. – est. 1898, with a taffy wrapping machine from the 1930’s that still operates. Patrons of this shop can clearly view the taffy being made and packaged in this fantastic shop. If you have any questions about such, they can answer them for you. Shriver’s not only is the best, they are still owned by the same family, are incredibly personable and cater very nicely to each person who call or come into their shop. I hope you got an “A” on your essay in 2012!

I also happen to be doing a project on taffy history and would like to know roughly how much a piece of taffy would cost in the 1900s? Preferably in Canadian dollars.

I worked the summer of 1979 in a saltwater taffy factory in Atlantic City. I stood during my entire shift and loaded taffy pieces into boxes which rolled along in front of us on the assembly line. I was a young college student hired for seasonal work. There were many women there working for what seemed to be their entire careers. I often think of this place. Did I dream it? Are those women still there, but just different generations? The cigarette smoke billowing from the break room, the hair nets, the smell of warm taffy – it all now seems to have been in black and white, another Time and Place. Except the candy – those soft, colorful, chewy pieces – their color remains intact in my memory. I recall that it was down at the end of the boardwalk where more casinos eventually started to be built after the initial ones closer to the center of the business boardwalk district were built. Perhaps it was Fralingers? Is it still there? Does anyone know? Thank you!!

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