It is believed that the Spencer and Pepper families were quite close, we know they were neighbors on Buffum Street in Salem. An area of Salem that already held confectioners and John Pepper was noted for his own delights as well. It is quite possible that Thomas and John worked together developing the Black Jack, the first stick candy produced and sold commercially in America. The two were looking for a candy that would serve a more masculine taste. The men thought the Gibralter had a soft feminine look and flavor so they sought to develop an opposite candy (Black Jack) and sell them both. This stick candy is made from black-strap molasses which gives it a distinctive taste.
“Old Salem” by Eleanor Putman, edited by Arlo Bates, 1886 tells of Salem’s charms as the author saw it in her youth. She wrote under a name borne by one of her ancestors of the old town, and went there to live in 1865, when nine years of age, staying about six years, and taking in the life of the place at a most impressionable age. She was a scholar at the fashionable dame-school which she describes so well, and spent her pennies at the quaint shops pictured. “Old Salem shops,” A Salem dame-school.” “Two Salem Institutions,” “Salem cupboards,” and “My cousin the captain,” make up the little volume, a book of only word pictures, one which you can read in an hour or two, and enjoy a perfect panorama of imaginative scenes. The first two chapters define themselves very readily by their titles, but who can guess what the third chapter details.
When we read, “Two Salem Institutions,” we immediately thought of Essex Institute and Peabody Museum. What else could they be? But the institutions referred to are “Black Jacks” and “Gibralters,” prehistoric confections. She says: “Witch Hill may blow away; the East Indian Museum may be swallowed up in earth; Charter Street Burying Ground may go out to sea; but as long as a single house remains standing in Salem Village, so long will ‘Black Jack’ and ‘Gibralter’ wisely reign, and retain their honorable place in the inmost hearts of Salem people.
A saying of a charming old Salem woman was: “I know I must be growing old, because a peppermint Gibralter is so comforting to me.”
The Pepper family continued to make Gibralters and Black Jacks for two generations. The family business grew and relocated to Elm Street in Peabody. From this location George (John’s son) lived, housed a factory and full stable for his horses used for delivering his goods and confections to the area.
George W Pepper Companie Elm Street, Peabody, Massachusetts
The company prospered for many years continuing the production of Gibralters and Black Jacks as well as other goods. In the late 1800’s a young George Burkinshaw went to work for the George Pepper Companie as an assistant candy maker. As he grew older he worked and learned the art of candy making from George Pepper. During this time George Burkinshaw met Alice, she was a candy packer for the company. The couple married and around the turn of 20h century they purchased the Pepper Companie with the Gibralter and Black Jack recipes. The Burkinshaw family, now in it’s fourth generation continue to produce these candies today. Ye Olde Pepper Companie located at 122 Derby Street, Salem, MA
Origin of Blackjacks
journey through history...