Taffy, the sequel. OK, so in last week’s post I mentioned that taffy (or toffee) has been around awhile. Saltwater taffy likely originated in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1880s and became so profitable that there was a U.S. Supreme Court case about it.
There’s a colorful—and perhaps true—story behind saltwater taffy. As a writer of fiction, I appreciate a good yarn, so here goes:
David Bradley sold taffy—just the regular kind popular in country fairs then. His taffy shop was on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, steps from the beach. During the summer of 1883—or thereabouts—a huge storm wracked the Jersey shore. Seawater flooded David’s shop, drenching the taffy. The next day a girl and her mom came in for taffy. David told them to help themselves to the ruined stock—the “saltwater” taffy. The girl and her mom tried the stuff, liked it, and told David to market the confection under that name.
At about that time, a candy maker named Joseph Fralinger took over a taffy stand on Applegate Pier and concocted his own recipe for what he called “Salt Water Taffy.” He packaged the taffy in one-pound oyster boxes and sold it to tourists as a souvenir of Atlantic City. They went wild for it.
Enoch James was one of many taffy competitors. Fralinger rolled his taffy into finger-sized logs, while James went for the square bite-size variety. Both men were very successful. Now both companies and Bayard Chocolates are owned by a single company.
In 1923, John Edmiston of Wildwood, New Jersey, managed to obtain a trademark for the name “Salt Water Taffy” and demanded that the taffy companies pay royalties to him for using the name. They refused, and sued, taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1925, the court ruled that “Salt Water Taffy” had been used as a common descriptive term for so long that Edmiston did not have the exclusive right to the name as a trademark.
Oh, by the way, there is no ocean water in saltwater taffy, although some recipes do call for salt.