There are so many kinds of candy in the world that it’s easy to just go with your favorite and overlook some of the older, simpler sweets from days of yore. Penny candy is a tradition that has delighted generations of kids, but has become less and less popular in an age where freakshakes are a thing. So, I say, let’s put a spotlight on some of the candy from the past, for example, Mary Janes. But what is Mary Jane candy?  

No, It Won't Get You High

First things first, as much as you might think “mary jane” refers to something else, for the purposes of this conversation, we’re strictly talking about G-rated, legal in all 50 states candy. (For the other stuff, read about it here.) Mary Jane is a peanut butter and molasses candy that’s kind of like taffy. The candy starts out hard, but then melts into a sweet and savory chewy mess. It’s also over 100 years old. Well, the type of candy anyways, not the actual stuff you're buying at the store. 

A Candy History Lesson

New Englanders get judged for the amount of hometown pride we have for all of the things our region has given to the world, but let's look for a second. The American Revolution? Check. Half of the Ivy League? Check. Amy Poehler, Steve Carell and Mindy Kaling? Check, check and check. But one thing thing that New England has given us that’s often overlooked is that most of your favorite candy was created there.

Pez comes from Orange, Connecticut. Chewing gum as we know it was invented in Bangor, Maine. Central Falls, Rhode Island was once so well-known for its sweets that it was referred to as Chocolateville.

Mary Janes are no exception. The candy was invented in 1914 by Charles Miller in Boston. (In an only-in-New-England twist, they were invented in the same house where Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere once lived.) Legend has it that Miller named the candy after his favorite aunt, but there are also stories out there that claim that his choice of name was a clever marketing ploy, and that he chose Mary Jane because she was a character in Buster Brown, a popular comic strip of the day. (Mary jane shoes were named after the comic strip, too.) The illustration of the little girl on the candy’s wrapper seems to support that theory, but there’s no real hard evidence.

The peanut butter and molasses recipe is basically the same now as it was over 100 years ago, even though the candy is now made by Necco, a Massachusetts-based company that makes Necco Wafers and those conversation hearts everyone eats around Valentine’s Day.

Where to Find Mary Janes

Mary Janes have made their way from penny candy counters to artisanal cocktail bars (like in the photo above). Ready to try for yourself? To get Mary Janes, you could go to the world’s longest candy counter, which is at Chutters in Littleton, New Hampshire. But if you aren’t up for a trek into the White Mountains for 112 feet of candy, maybe it’s time to reconsider your priorities? Seriously, though, you’ll probably find Mary Janes anywhere you can find gummy bears and sour worms, especially at drug stores and Dollar Tree