Technically, St. Louis doesn’t have the origin of candy corn. But candy corn owes its national popularity to a company that once thrived in this city.
George Renninger, a Philadelphia-based candy company called Wunderle Candy Company, created a corn-kernel-shaped candy in 1888. The molds were carefully filled with colored layers by bucket-wielding factory workers. Candy companies made sweets with agricultural themes, such as tiny pumpkins and wheat sheaves. Tricolored candy was an amazing discovery. Renninger named it Chicken Feed because corn at the time was unfit for human consumption. You could toss it in the chicken coop or pigpen.
In 1898, the Goelitz Candy Company of Belleville (and the Goelitz Brothers of St. Louis) created a company that brought candy corn to the masses. Goelitz designed an advertisement featuring a cheeky, sassy-looking rooster that scratched over a banner declaring himself King of the Candy Corn Fields. Although Americans didn’t reconsider corn’s status in livestock feed until World War I, they still ate a lot of candy corn.
It was a small confectionery that shipped candies by horse-drawn wagon around St. Clair County before Goelitz made its first big hit. Gustav Goelitz, a German immigrant, founded the company in Belleville in 1869. He sold “stick candies and caramels” and also figurines and flowers to trim cakes.
Gustav Sr.’s brothers Albert and George joined the company eventually and managed a wholesale facility in downtown St. Louis. Things were going well until the panic and depression in 1893. This bankrupted Gustav Sr. and sent him back to Belleville where he was employed at a smaller company run by his adult sons. G Goelitz Confection Company was established and they moved to Cincinnati in 1898. This year, they started making candy corn. Gustav Sr. was a traveling salesman at Sudders-Gale Grocery Company. He died in 1901 at the age of 55. His family always blamed his stress over losing his business.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see candy corn become a Halloween staple and household name.