Trick-or-treaters, 1955

Costumed children head out for trick-or-treat night in this photo from Halloween 1955.

It's almost Halloween, and that means store shelves have been over-stuffed with candy for about the last two months, all in anticipation of countless kids (and adults) being over-stuffed with candy by Nov. 1.

Trick-or-treating has been an American tradition since sometime in the 1930s (though, according to National Geographic, it likely came to the U.S. from Canada). But what were the treats of choice for Lancaster County residents over the last hundred years?

To find out, we engaged in the deeply scientific practice of poring over old newspaper advertisements to see which types of candy appeared most frequently. We started with 1922, 100 years ago, and checked every 10 years thereafter, up until 1982.

Here's what we found:

1922

Trick-or-treating wasn't done in Lancaster county at this time, but children and adults gathered for Halloween costume parties where candy was served.

Local merchants advertised "Hallowe'en candies" for sale, but didn't get specific about varieties. However, an article in the Lancaster Intelligencer about seasonal candy sales mentioned the most popular offering for that year: Chocolate-covered nuts.

1932

Ten years later, there was still no trick-or-treating here, but the perennially beloved (or hated) candy corn was being advertised.

Also mentioned by local merchants:

  • Marshmallows
  • Anise gumdrops
  • Butter cream pumpkins, owls and witches
  • Chocolate novelties

1942

Halloween candy ad, 1942

Before trick-or-treating was a common practice, Halloween candy was marketed differently.

The phrase "trick-or-treat" first appeared in local newspaper ads in 1943; 1946 saw the term's first appearance in an article in a Lancaster newspaper.

Thus, 1942's candy ads still were not geared toward treats to hand out to neighbor kids at the front door. And some of the advertising around Halloween candy aimed to convince men to buy Halloween chocolates for their sweethearts.

But there were still lists of candies being promoted by merchants - this year's list was largely similar to that of 1932, with the addition of chocolate bon-bons and the mysterious "hoodoo mix," which appears to have been a mix of candy corn and pumpkins.

1952

By this time, the phrase "trick-or-treat" was prominently featured in ads from local grocers and department stores.

Popular items this year included:

  • Candy corn (of course)
  • Candy pumpkins
  • Halloween jelly eggs
  • Gumdrops
  • Life Savers
  • Chocolate bars (a box of 24 for 95 cents!)

1962

This year wasn't too different from 1952 in terms of candy options - though the New Era's food page suggested making your own treats to hand out on Halloween.

If you still wanted to go the store-bought route, popular choices included:

  • Candy corn (some things never change)
  • Mellow creams
  • Jelly pumpkins
  • Chocolate drops
  • Malted milk balls

1972

By the 1970s, the name-brand chocolate candies we know today had begun to dominate local advertising.

Another annual tradition also had arrived by this time: The fear of drugs or poisons being added to trick-or-treat candy. Here's Ann Landers recommending kids avoid trick-or-treating altogether and opt for Halloween parties with friends and neighbors instead.

And here's what was popular in terms of candy:

  • Candy corn (still)
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Saf-T-Pops
  • M&Ms
  • Milky Way
  • Snickers
  • Butterfinger
  • Baby Ruth
  • Good 'n' Plenty

1982

In 1982, the discovery of cyanide-poisoned Tylenol raised fears of tainted Halloween candy to a fever pitch, and some cities and towns - including Harrisburg - banned trick-or-treating completely, while others discouraged the tradition.

There seemed to be fewer ads for Halloween candy in 1982's newspapers, but here's what was on offer:

  • Hershey Kisses
  • Hershey Miniatures
  • Root beer barrels
  • Caramel rolls
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Tootsie Pops
  • Licorice bits
  • Jordan almonds

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