Ghosts, goblins and witches roaming the night streets in search of sugary rewards can only mean one thing: Halloween is here again! Yes, it's that time of the year for carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples, dressing up in costumes and, of course, trick-or-treating. But have you ever wondered about the origins of these Halloween favorites? InventHelp® is pleased to present the stories of two enduring traditions – candy corn and jack-o'-lanterns – that you're sure to see plenty of this Halloween season.
Invention of the Jack-O'-Lantern
The Halloween tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns was invented in Ireland several hundred years ago, and was based on a well-known folk character named Stingy Jack. As the story goes, Stingy Jack was a miserable thief and drunkard who liked to play malicious tricks on everyone. Jack was so cunning that he even tricked the Devil into promising that he would not take the cantankerous old man's soul when he died.
However, when Jack eventually did pass on, he was denied entrance to heaven because of his mean-spirited shenanigans. Since the Devil had also agreed not to accept Jack's soul, the unfortunate man was trapped in the dark void between heaven and hell. The Devil commanded Jack to leave his gates and tossed an ember from his fires at the displaced spirit so that he could light his way in the pitch-black nothingness.
Jack then placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip – his favorite food when he was alive – and commenced to wander the earth in search of a resting place. He was doomed to roam the netherworld for all eternity, holding his lamp in front of him to light the path. From then on, he was known as "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack O'Lantern."
On All Hallows' Eve, the Irish would carve out turnips and place a candle inside to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack at bay. When droves of Irish immigrants came to the United States during the 1800s, they brought their jack-o'-lantern tradition with them. However, pumpkins were far easier to come by than turnips were in the new country, and they proved to be less difficult to carve. As a result, pumpkins became the standard for making jack-o'-lanterns, and the practice eventually spread throughout all parts of the United States.
Invention of Candy Corn
In the 1880s, Wunderlee Candy Company employee George Renninger invented a new confection that was intended to look like a kernel of field corn. The treat was made from a base combination of sugar, corn syrup and honey, but it was the revolutionary tri-color design (yellow top, orange center, white point) that had late 19th-century consumers so eager to chomp the tiny delights. By 1898, the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company, still the largest candy corn maker to this day) was mass-producing the sweet kernels.
However, the turn-of-the-century manufacturing process was both time-consuming and labor-intensive. It required the newly cooked candy mixture to be dumped into 45-pound buckets called "runners." Next, men called "stringers" would walk backwards while hand-pouring the hot syrup into rows of trays that had kernel-shaped imprints. What made the task so burdensome, however, was the fact that the men had to make three separate passes to layer the colors – one each for the white, orange and yellow syrup mixtures.
As a result of this cumbersome process, candy makers were only able to produce the corn seasonally, from March through November. Furthermore, because candy corn was so immensely popular in its heyday, manufacturers frequently had to refuse large orders due to a lack of production capacity.
After World War II, innovations in mechanical processing allowed for year-round mass production and widespread distribution of candy corn. While it took many men a full day to make a batch of the treat in the early 20th-century, the same job can now be performed in less than an hour by an automated device. Thanks in particular to the invention of the cornstarch molding machine, today there is enough candy corn to satisfy sweet-toothed fans all over the world over. In fact, Candy USA! reports that more than 35 million pounds of the sugary kernels are produced every year!
"The Invent Help People" hope you enjoyed these stories about the invention of two products that we closely associate with Halloween, and we also would like to wish all of our readers a "Happy Halloween" this year!