The Invention of the Gumdrop

Percy Truesdell is credited with formulating the modern gumdrop recipe.
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The origin of the gumdrop is a sweet mystery. Although popular legend has it that the gumdrop was created in 1801, the exact circumstances of the candy's creation are not clear. However, it is certain that the gumdrop had become popular by the late-19th century, and an Ohio candy manufacturer named Percy Truesdell is credited with formulating the modern gumdrop in 1915.

1 The First Gumdrops

The term "gum drop" first appears in print in 1860 as part of a list of confections -- "candies, gum drops, mottoes" -- in the Port Townsend, Washington, "North-West." Subsequent 19th-century reports describe the "gum drop" as a soft gelatin-based candy that stretches like rubber when pulled. However, some manufacturers were selling a less pliable potato-based gumdrop that was less expensive to produce.

2 Percy Truesdell

In 1915 a candy manufacturer named Percy Truesdell started producing a gumdrop with an enhanced texture, using a formula he developed while conducting experiments at Ohio State University. Truesdell came to be known as "the gumdrop king" and was credited with inventing the modern soft gumdrop, but assertions in his 1948 obituary accounts that the gumdrop had previously been a hard-candy jawbreaker are not consistent with earlier descriptions. Truesdell's gumdrops are the likely inspiration for an erroneous Internet meme that gumdrops were invented by a Percy Trusdale in 1801.

3 Gumdrop in Culture

As the offhand 1860 mention indicates, gumdrops became a popular form of candy in the latter half of the 19th century. By the 1890s, gumdrop also came to be used as a slang term for sweetness or a sweetheart. The candy continued to be an American standard for decades, as evidenced by the inclusion of the Gumdrop Mountains in the classic 1945 boardgame, "Candy Land" and the coining of the phrase "Goody gumdrops" in the 1950s.

John Green is an attorney who has been writing on legal, business and media matters for more than 20 years. He has also taught law school and business courses in entrepreneurship, business enterprise, tax and ethics. Green received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in religion from Duke.