Most people would probably assume that Charles Schulz named his Peppermint Patty character after the candy. It would make sense. After all, the candy predates the character by 22 years. Peppermint Patty, whose actual name was Patricia Reichardt, was introduced to the Peanuts strip on August 22, 1966, while the candy was invented by Henry C. Kessler in 1940 1 Many have assumed, therefore, that Schulz named the character after the product.
However, the Peppermint Pattie, which Kessler developed for the York Cone Company, was unlikely to have been known by Schulz until well after he introduced the character. York was a regional operation out of Pennsylvania during the 1940’s and beyond, only distributing to its home state, New England, Ohio, and Indiana. The York Peppermint Pattie did not become a nationally distributed brand until 1975. Schulz, based in California, probably would never had heard of it until then.
The author himself said that he got the idea for the name from a dish of peppermint candies, almost a year before he actually used the name. Schulz felt that she could probably carry another strip by herself, and he had been meaning to write a series of children’s books completely separate from the Peanuts strip, but he never had time for it, so Peppermint Patty ended up in the Peanut’s Strip, along with her best friend Marcie, who always called Patty “Sir.”
The character differed greatly from the other female characters of the strip, and not only because she didn’t wear dresses. Besides the fact that she behaved like a tomboy and was an excellent athlete, her home life was also revealed more-so than other characters, such as the fact that she was being raised by a single father. She appeared in the longest series of strips that the author ever wrote, in which she entered an ice skating competition with her partner Snoopy, an ice skating pro, to find out, after much hard work, that it was a roller skating competition. 2
Peppermint Patty, however, was not the first female character named Patty to Appear in the Peanuts strip. The first female character in the strip was also named Patty, whom Schulz named after his cousin Patricia Swanson. She became less prominent as the strip went on, being overshadowed by other characters, but you may remember her as a snobbish girl who, along with her best friend, Violet, was cruel to Charlie Brown. She was also the character who constantly asked Pig Pen why he was so dirty. This Patty appeared in the very first strip, on October 2, 1950, but was not named until October 26 of that year. 3 4
The Peter Paul Candy company, maker of the Mounds and Almond Joy bars, acquired the York Cone Company in 1972 and began to distribute the York Peppermint Pattie nationally three years later, expanding production and promoting the product aggressively. Cadbury bought the company in 1978 and in 1988 sold the Mounds, Almond Joy, and York Peppermint Patties (the Peter Paul products) brands to the Hershey Company, which still makes them all today.
The York Peppermint Pattie was not a unique invention, although it may be the only such candy most people have ever heard of. It was based on a common type of candy called a “cream wafer” or “cream pattie” that could also be flavored with wintergreen, lemon, orange, maple, chocolate, or even nuts like pistachios. Other “Peppermint Pattie” candy brands were Pearson’s Peppermint Pattie and Curtiss Peppermint Pattie (famous for the Baby Ruth bar). This type of candy recipe existed long before the Peanuts cartoon.
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- Invented may be a strong word, it was not exactly an original concept, but he did a good job with it!
- Schulz, Charles M., and M. Thomas. Inge. My Life with Charlie Brown. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2010.
- Michaelis, David. Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. New York: Harper, 2007.
- “Patty.” Peanuts Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://peanuts.wikia.com/wiki/Patty>
- Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.
- Lehman, Eric D., and Amy Nawrocki. A History of Connecticut Food: A Proud Tradition of Puddings, Clambakes and Steamed Cheeseburgers. Charleston, SC: History, 2012.
- Smith, Andrew F. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006.