A sign for True Treats a historic candy store in Harpers Ferry, on a black iron hook hanging from the side of a brick building with green shutters.

Old Time Candy Store Is Legendary for Its Vintage Treats

Retro Sweet Shop Offers Hundreds Of Candies Spanning Thousands Of Years

I stumbled upon an old time candy store during my last visit to Harpers Ferry that offers a unique glimpse into the history of candy.

Not only is this vintage candy shop a great place to buy old time candy, it is the only historical candy company in the entire nation.

True Treats Historic Candy Store specializes in historical candy and treats, offering nostalgic memories from childhood that made me laugh and transported me back in time.

This unique retro sweet shop is definitely not your average candy store. Instead of stocking the latest and greatest sweet candy trends, they focus on the history of candy and its uses for medicinal purposes throughout history.

So come along as I take you on a tour of this historic candy store in Harpers Ferry—and a trip back in time. If you’re searching for “cool candy,” you can find it here.

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Vintage Candy Featured At True treats

True Treats Candy Store in Harpers Ferry offers sweet treats that were popular in America from the colonial era all the way up to the mid-20th century. From molasses candy to horehound drops to salt water taffy, you’ll find a wide range of unique and nostalgic candy treats.

In addition to hard to find candy from the past, they carry a wide variety of items, including 50-plus teas, gift boxes, vintage penny candy, Civil War sweets, old time chocolates, candy cigarettes, colonial beer kits, and circus peanuts.

But the thing that I found most interesting about True Treats is that it’s not just a candy store. It’s a museum, a trip through time, and the perfect place to learn about the history of candy in America.

The store displays fascinating tidbits about the role candy played in American history, from its use as medicine in the colonial era to its role in boosting morale during World War II.

Two shelves showing ancient and biblical candies and remedies in jars and containers at True Treats an old time candy store.
Ancient and Biblical candy and remedies are on display and for sale at True Treats in Harpers Ferry.

Candy: History As A Medicine

While we typically think of candy as a way to satisfy a sweet tooth, there have been times throughout history when candy has been used for medicinal purposes.

An example of this is Licorice Root. I love licorice and was surprised to find that it was used by pharos and prophets, and then arrived in North America with the British in the 1600s.

Licorice was used throughout North America as a medicine, spice, flavoring and toothbrush for centuries. In the mid-1800s, it became a penny candy.

I bought a bag of Dutch Soft Licorice at True Treats, which was first made at the start of the penny candy era in the 1800s. Made from the extract of the licorice plant, most of today’s soft licorice is imported from the Netherlands. (It was delicious).

I also bought a small bottle of Peppermint hard candy, which is a hybrid of spearmint and watermint. Peppermint was once used as a medicine for upset stomach, anxiety and the common cold.

I couldn’t leave this old time candy store without a bag of Good & Plenty. I didn’t know that this vintage candy was created in 1893 and is the oldest brand in the U.S.

True Treats also sells peanut brittle that is an actual recipe from George Washington Carver. If you remember your history class, Carver found 300 uses for peanuts, among other remarkable discoveries.

Amazingly he was born as an enslaved baby, and was traded for a race horse. He became a famous scientist, inventor and philanthropist.

While candy is no longer used as a primary treatment for medical conditions, it’s interesting to see how it has played a role in traditional medicine and health practices throughout history.

Botanicals on display and for sale at True Treats Historical Candy Store.
Botanicals and teas are on display and for sale at True Treats.

Background On True Treats Historic Candy Store

True Treats Candy Store was founded in 2009 by Susan Benjamin, a candy historian and author who has dedicated her career to researching the history of candy in America.

Benjamin was inspired to open the store after conducting research for her book, “Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America’s Favorite Pleasure.”

She not only tells about the historic figures who made innovations in the candy world, but also traces how people’s palates have changed over the centuries as roots, barks, and even bugs were savored as treats

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The store is located in the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which is known for its role in the Civil War and its picturesque scenery. The town’s location at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers makes it a popular destination for tourists and history buffs.

True Treats Candy Store is unique in that it specializes in historical candy and treats that were popular in America from the colonial era all the way up to the mid-20th century.

In addition to running the candy store, Susan Benjamin is also a recognized expert in the history of candy and confections. (I think being a candy expert is a great job, don’t you?)

Handmade honey sesame crunch in a clear package at the vintage candy store in Harpers Ferry WV.
Some vintage candy on display at True Treats that is made with honey.

Vintage Candy Online

By the way, you don’t have to drive to Harpers Ferry to enjoy this old time candy! True Treats sells candies online!

In addition to being able to pick what era you want to browse, through they also sell many different kinds of Sampler Boxes.

For instance, they have a Biblical Box that includes Botanicals of the Bible like lavender and hibiscus brewed as tea. Honey, grapes and almonds are also included for their curative powers and special meaning.

I also like the 1700s Time Capsule for kids that features 18th century sugars and sweets, such as candied peels, sugar plums, and “stain glass.” This unique gift even includes a letter from the Time Traveler written just for them, telling them about each selection.

If you’re looking for a unique gift, you can probably find it at True Treats.

Funny Food Video at True Treats

Fun Candy Facts

The English word ”candy” has been in use since the late 13th century and it derives from Arabic qandi, meaning ”made of sugar.”

People still love to treat themselves with nostalgic candy and it’s really fascinating how candy has changed over the years.

Of course, those of us who remember penny candy have different tastes than those of the younger generations.

Vintage candy on display from the 1920s to 1940s including colorful gum balls.
Old time candy from the 1920s to 1940s, including one that remained popular for a long time: Gum Balls.

Nevertheless, chocolate is a go-to sweet for everyone it seems, with people spending more than $7 billion a year on this sweet confection.

Honey has been a favorite sweet treat throughout recorded history and is even mentioned in the Bible. The ancient Egyptians, Arabs and Chinese candied fruits and nuts in honey which was an early form of candy.

Hard candies, especially sweets like peppermints and lemon drops, started to become popular in the 19th century.

The first chocolate candy bars were made by Joseph Fry in 1847 using bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate was first introduced in 1875 by Henry Nestle and Daniel Peter.

A display of old time candy at True Treats in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Display of candy at True Treats.

Candy’s Rich History

Candy has a rich history that spans centuries, and it has evolved and changed in various ways throughout different cultures and time periods.

Here are some highlights of the history of candy and confections:

  • Ancient Origins: The roots of candy can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The Egyptians, for example, created sweet treats using honey and fruits. In India, early forms of candy were made from sugar and flavored with spices and herbs.
  • Medieval Period: During the Middle Ages, sugar was considered a luxury item and was primarily used for medicinal purposes. It was often mixed with various herbs and spices to create remedies for different ailments.
  • Renaissance and Sugar Sculpting: As sugar became more widely available in Europe during the Renaissance, its use in confections increased. Elaborate sugar sculptures, known as subtleties, were created for royal banquets and feasts.
  • Colonial America: In the American colonies, sugar was initially expensive and scarce. Candy was considered a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Common colonial candies included marzipan, candied fruits, and sugarplums.
  • Industrial Revolution: The invention of new technology and machinery during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century transformed the candy-making industry. Mass production techniques made candy more affordable and accessible to the general population. (Vintage penny candy).
  • Hard Candy and Chocolates: In the late 19th century, hard candies like peppermints and butterscotch became popular. The introduction of chocolate-making machinery in the 1800s led to the mass production of chocolate bars and other chocolate confections.
  • Nostalgic Candy: In the mid-20th century, iconic candies such as candy corn, Tootsie Rolls, and Jelly Belly jelly beans gained popularity and became nostalgic treats that are still enjoyed today.
  • Modern Innovations: The candy industry continues to evolve with new flavors, textures, and packaging. There are now countless varieties of candies, from sour gummies to artisanal chocolates, catering to a wide range of tastes.
A display of some sweet treats that were once used as medicines, showing old time bottles.
Some examples of sweets used for medicinal value.

Today, candy remains a special treat for people of all ages.

It’s fascinating to see how candy has not only been used as a special sweet treat but also played a role in cultural traditions, technological advancements, and historical moments throughout the centuries.

Nostalgic Toys Go Hand-In-Hand With Vintage Candy

True Treats Candy Store has more than just candy for sale! It’s fun to look at the old-time toys on display and for sale as well.

Some nostalgic toys for sale at True Treats include Magic Rocks and small bead toys.
Everyone remembers Magic Rocks and the small toys that were used for long drives.

When was the last time you saw Pick-Up Sticks or Magic Rocks? These still make great gifts for kids, and may even get them away from their phones for a few minutes.

True Treats also had a Super Ball (remember those?), wooden train whistles, a balloon-powered boat and the magnetic fishing game Hook, Line & Sinker.

Wrap-Up Of Old Time Candy Store

Whether you’re a candy connoisseur or just looking for a fun and unique experience, True Treats Historical Candy Store is a wonderful place to browse while learning new things about candy history.

A wooden barrel with a sign that says Historical Candy Store and an arrow pointing down.

True Treats fits right in with the historical character of Harpers Ferry and is a must-see if you are visiting this charming West Virginia town.

True Treats is located at 144 High Street in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Where To Stay In Harpers Ferry

There are lots of VRBO’s near Harpers Ferry as well as a couple of hotels.

The Clarion Inn: Has an indoor pool, free parking and breakfast.

Quality Inn: Free breakfast and parking. Conveniently close to Harpers Ferry.

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