he first mention of jelly beans in America was in 1861, in an advertisement by William Schrafft of Boston that urged citizens to send jelly beans to Union soldiers during the Civil War. When the penny candy craze came along in the late 1800's, candy makers began experimenting with tricky sugar candies, like gumdrops, jelly beans and jawbreakers, made with a new process - using panning equipment.
Although the penny candy boom waned a bit when America fell in love with chocolate in the early 1900's, there was a real chocolate shortage when most chocolate went to overseas troops during World War II. So patriotic Americans once again discovered their urge for non-chocolate sweet treats, and the jelly bean became part of the Easter tradition.
The Goelitz Family, candy makers since 1869, got their start in America making buttercream candies, including "candy corn." Although they had made jelly beans since 1965, the "jelly belly" - beans that contained flavoring in the chewy center as well as in the hard outer coating - was born in 1976. It was the Goelitz Company of California, along with the help of Ronald Reagan, that propelled the humble jelly bean into cult status.
When Reagan served as Governor of California, he frequently turned to jelly beans when he was trying to quit smoking a pipe. He was able to give up the pipe, as long as there was always a jar of jelly beans nearby. Goelitz shipped 3 1/2 tons of jelly beans to Reagan's Presidential Inauguration in 1981, and even invented a blueberry jelly bean so there would be red, white and blue candies for the President. The presence of jelly beans in Ronald Reagan's office at all times symbolized what came to be known as Reaganomics: Contrary to what your mother told you, it's perfectly all right to eat only candy, you can have as much as you want, and you can eat it any time of day!
The Commemorative Presidential Jelly Bean Jar.
(filled with red, white and blue Goelitz Jelly Bellys).