A Production of Delicious Sweetness, The History of a Peculiar Industry
Historic Salem, Massachusetts! This immediately suggests Hawthorne, Witchcraft and a once-prosperous seaport; but besides these interesting features there is a delight, especially to those who have a ‘sweet tooth,’ in associating the toothsome ‘Gibralter’ with this old city.
The history of these attractive little dainties includes a bit of romance concerning their origin. Early in the 19th century an English family, Spencer by name, sailed for this country. On the passage they lost all their worldly goods in a shipwreck and the family arrived in Salem in a rather destitute condition. They took up a residence in North Salem, on Buffum Street, and such were their privations that their neighbors determined to offer assistance. It became known that Mrs. Spencer was a candy maker, so a barrel of sugar was donated. It was this barrel of sugar which laid the foundations of the well-known ‘Salem Gibralter’ business.
There is no need to say “What’s in a name?” No other name would ever apply to these sweet memories of our childhood. Their fame has gone forth and people come from far and near to buy these delightful little dainties, done up so mysteriously.
When one is enjoying the purity and delicious flavor of this confection it is hard to realize that they are made and wrapped in exactly the same way as sold by Mrs. Spencer from a pail, on the steps of the Old First Church, over 200 years ago. Gibralters at once became very popular and the storekeepers placarded their windows with their name. A prosperous business was established and so rapidly increased that Mrs. Spencer bought a wagon from which to peddle her wares, and might be seen driving this quaint outfit, a picture of which is reproduced here, through the streets of Salem and surrounding towns. Isn’t it amazing that a woman in that day could start and own a business, all starting with a piece of candy. Today the Peabody Essex Museum has custody of her wagon and the firkins she used to deliver her sweets.The Gibralter needed not the insignia of nobility to make them popular is very true, for their fame went out so broadly that they were known from Salem to the Far East, China, India, the East Indies and Africa. In the days of Salem’s commercial prosperity her sea-captains would not think of making a voyage without a case of Salem Gibralters. Their purity is proved as they keep fresh in all climates.After Mrs. Spencer’s death in 1835 her son Thomas Spencer continued the business for a short while, and the surprise was very general when people learned one day that Thomas had fallen heir to a fortune and Title in England. He disposed of his business to a local confectioner from Salem, John Pepper. After proper arrangements concluded Thomas would leave for England with all his household goods, taking with him the body of his mother. That they had been expecting this event there is no doubt, as the body of his mother was embalmed and placed in a metallic casket, a thing so unusual then that it caused one old gentleman to remark, “I guess she will never hear Gabriel’s trumpet through that thing.”
how they came to bee....