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A Sweet Confection Connection

January 31, 2019 Published By Sarah Garriepy

The Salem Gibralter is the oldest commercially sold confection in the United States. The candy was first made in 1806 by the Spencer family who lived in North Salem. On the Spencer’s journey to America, their boat shipwrecked, and all their goods were lost. After arriving in Salem, their new neighbors came together and gave the family a barrel of sugar since Mrs. Spencer was a candy maker. The resulting candy was The Salem Gibralter. Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie still makes and wraps this candy is the same way today.

The candy was so popular that our own Nathaniel Hawthorne noted that the candy was, “made by an Englishman named Spencer around 1822 and were sold by his mother, who drove a wagon from street to street. Their retail price was a silver penny apiece or four pence, half penny for seven.”

George Burkinshaw Sr. Alice & George Jr.

In 1835, Mrs. Spencer’s son Thomas inherited the candy making business. He eventually sold it to John Pepper. Like the Spencer family, the Pepper family has a claim to sweet fame. Pepper’s creation was Black Jacks – a sweet molasses candy. Black Jacks are still made by the Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie today.

The Burkinshaw family purchased Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie around the turn of the 20th century. Their ownership continues into its fourth generation today. Gibralters and Black Jacks have continued to remain popular as have other sweet creations. Today, you can indulge in countless varieties of homemade fudge, turtles of all chocolate and nut combinations, and hand-rolled candy canes in December.

We think it’s “pretty sweet” having a neighbor like this. The Burkinshaws are always one of the first to sign up for our annual fundraiser, Taste of the Gables, and to offer chocolate tastings for other special events. Please stop by to learn more about the history of this unique shop during Salem’s So Sweet weekend.

Photos courtesy of Ye Olde Pepper Company

George and Robert Burkinshaw

Myrtle and Robert Burkinshaw

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This post was written by Sarah Garriepy