Mary Jane candies are a brand of candy began in 1914 by Charles N. Miller of Boston. They are bite-sized chewy molasses and peanut butter flavored and were named after Miller’s aunt.
It may seem unusual to see molasses listed as a candy flavor, but during the 1800’s molasses was a popular flavor for candies. A combination of molasses and peanut butter was quite unique.
Miller, who began to make candies in 1884, is said to have worked out of the same house where Paul Revere lived, at 19 North Square, until 1800.
Mary Janes were a favorite penny candy for many years. They were, and still are, wrapped in a yellow paper with a red strip across the middle, and a picture of a little girl beside the name Mary Jane. The little girl is wearing a yellow dress and bonnet. The words Mary Jane also appear across the hem of the dress, which flares out to provide more prominence to the logo.
In some ways, they are similar to another old favorite, Bit-O-Honey (honey and almond flavored), which looks similar and has the same chewiness. Due to the paper wrapping, both candies tend to dry out and become very hard, required a lot of work to chew.
Mary Jane was sold to Stark Candy Company in 1989. Stark was then acquired by New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) which still sells many different Mary Jane candy products, including Mary Jane tubs, Mary Jane peanut butter kisses.
Altough NECCO may not offer them at all times, Mary Janes, today, are still generally available, but as more of a retro-candy brand. Although you will not find them widely sold in stores, you can easily order Mary Jane candies online.
Mary Janes in Literature
In Tony Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, the character Pecola Breedlove buys Mary Janes from Mr. Yacobowski and eats them with a particular relish. The little white girl on the wrapping is special to Percola, representing the sort of happiness and contentment that she longs for.
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