History

Mary Jane Candy | Favorite Old-Fashioned Candy

Mary Jane candy, a chewy peanut butter and molasses taffy treat, is a nostalgic and jaw-breaking New England penny candy favorite.

By Aimee Tucker

Jun 29 2022

mary-janes-og
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Mary Jane, a chewy peanut butter and molasses taffy candy, is a nostalgic New England penny candy favorite. Instantly recognizable with its yellow and red wrapper and illustration of a bonnet-wearing little girl (part of the candy’s packaging since the beginning), Mary Jane candy was named after the creator’s favorite aunt, and debuted in 1914.

mary janes candy
Mary Jane Candy | An old-fashioned favorite since 1914.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Today, more than a century after they were first introduced, the old-fashioned flavor of Mary Jane candy faces stiff competition from the decadent chocolate bars and colorful gummy sweets at the supermarket checkout. This has made them increasingly hard to find, so most folks get their Mary Jane candy fix from the nickel bin at the supermarket or at the “penny candy” counter on vacation.

Knowing this, I was surprised to find Mary Jane in this 5-piece package at a small convenience store while on vacation in Rye, New Hampshire, but there it was — right next to the Heath Bars. Naturally, I gave in and bought one.

mary jane candy box
Mary Jane candy by the box.
Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey

Mary Jane candy was originally made by The Charles N. Miller, Co., then Stark Candy Co., but today, they’re made by Necco (New England Confection Company) right here in New England (see Update at the bottom of this post). Based in Revere, Massachusetts, Necco is also home to the famous Necco Wafers, Necco Sweethearts, and Sky Bar — just to name a few.

Along with a few of its Necco siblings, Mary Janes are the kind of candy some people love (and others love to hate), but whether it’s taste or tradition, they endure.

I confess I love the simplicity of the packaging, and while I’m more of a Bit-O-Honey girl, I’ve been known to eat my fair share of Mary Jane and Squirrel Nut Zippers (another Necco classic) when the opportunity presents itself. What New England kid hasn’t?

mary jane candy
Mary Jane candy gets its unique flavor from a combination of molasses and peanut butter.
Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey

And does Mary Jane candy taste the same as I remember?

One jaw-stretching bite proved that, yes… Mary Jane candy is as molasses-y, peanut butter-y as ever. They’re also definitely not for those that might be overdue for a visit to the dentist, so consider yourself warned. Extremely warned.

But, if your tastebuds and teeth are ready, feel free to unwrap a piece, chew it slowly, and enjoy the sweet memories.

Are you a fan of Mary Jane candy? Which nostalgic candy is your favorite?

Necco Update (2018)

Due to financial hardship, Necco was first sold to investment firm American Capital in 2007. When losses continued, the Los Angeles-based Ares Management bought both Necco and American Capital in 2017. Ares sold Necco’s real estate to an investment firm that rented the facility back to Necco. In May 2018, Necco declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was purchased by Greenwich, CT-based Round Hill Investments for $17.3 million. Hopes for a rebound were abundant, since Round Hill had been responsible for reviving troubled brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Chef Boyardee, and Hostess (including its venerated Twinkies), but on July 24, 2018, the Revere facility was was suddenly shuttered. Approximately 230 workers and executives were laid off, and production of all candy lines stopped, ending the Necco Wafer’s reign as the country’s longest-running, continuously produced candy. Round Hill would go on to sell off many of Necco’s long-running candy lines to other manufacturers.

This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated. 

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6 Classic New England Sandwiches