Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Willoughbys

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The Willoughbys

by Lois Lowry

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 176 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2010, 176 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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In The Willoughbys, the highest honor is to have a candy bar named after you, which leads us to ....

Candy Bars, Fascinating Facts
Chocolate as a drink was a favorite of Montezuma, Emperor of the Aztecs. Hernando Cortez brought the drink back to Spain in 1529. It remained a favorite of the Spanish royalty for many years before being consumed widely throughout Europe.

It was not until three centuries later in England that chocolate was first used as a non-liquid confection. The inventor of 'chocolate for eating' is unknown, but in 1847, Joseph Fry & Son -- under the leadership of the original Joseph Fry's great-grandson -- discovered a way to mix some of the melted cacao butter back into defatted, or "Dutched," cocoa powder (along with sugar) to create a paste that could be pressed into a mold. John Cadbury added a similar product to his range in 1849.

By today's standards these original chocolate bars would not be considered very palatable. The early eating bars of chocolate were made of bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate was introduced in 1875 when Henry Nestle (a maker of evaporated milk) and Daniel Peter (a chocolate maker) got together.

In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt thought to add cocoa butter back to the chocolate. Adding the additional cocoa butter helped the chocolate set into a bar that "snaps" when broken, as well as melting on the tongue.

When Milton S Hershey visited the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a World's Fair held in Chicago, a chocolate-making machine made in Dresden, Germany caught his eye. Hershey, who had already made a fortune from caramels, saw the potential for chocolate. He installed the machines in his factory and produced the first Hershey bars in 1900.

From the end of the 1890's to the early 1900's, other American manufacturers started to produce candy bars, but World War I was the turning point that brought attention to the candy bar. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps commissioned various American chocolate manufacturers to provide 20 to 40 pound blocks of chocolate to be shipped to quartermaster bases. The blocks were chopped up into smaller pieces and distributed to American soldiers in Europe.

By the end of the war, the returning "doughboys" had grown fond of chocolate candy and now as civilians wanted more of the same. As a result, from that time on and through the 1920s, candy bar manufacturers became established throughout the United States, and as many as 40,000 different candy bars appeared on the scene.


Kandy Kake or Baby Ruth?
Many of the candy bars introduced in the 1920s did not survive, including the Milk Nut Loaf, Fat Emma, Big Dearo, Vegetable Sandwich (dehydrated vegetables and bran), Chicken Dinner (a chocolate peanut roll that survived until the 1960s). Then there's the Kandy Kake, which found a new lease of life as the the Baby Ruth.


When did your favorite candy bar appear?

  • 1900: Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar.
  • 1923: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1923: Butterfinger
  • 1923: Milky Way (known as Mars Bar in the UK)
  • 1930: Snickers
  • 1932: Three Musketeers (known as Milky Way in the UK!)
  • 1933: Kit Kat
  • 1938: Nestle's Crunch
  • 1940: M&Ms

Article by Jo Perry

This article was originally published in April 2008, and has been updated for the March 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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