Pennsylvania is well known for being the home of Hershey Chocolate, but this is not the state’s only claim to chocolate fame. Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz, Pa. ranks as one of America’s oldest candy companies.
This week’s Pennsylvania Treasure is a Liberty Bell-shaped glass bottle that contains candies made by Croft, Wilbur & Co. at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Croft, Wilbur & Co. had a display in Machinery Hall where it demonstrated the candy-making process. The label on the bottom of the jar, a souvenir from the exposition, states that the candy contained within was made using “our steam process, in Dragee revolving pans.”
Wilbur Chocolate started life as a confectioners company called Croft, Wilbur & Co. Henry Oscar Wilbur, a New Jersey-based hardware store owner, and Samuel Croft, a Philadelphia confectioner, founded the company in 1865. The partners opened their confectioners business at 125 N. Third Street in Philadelphia. At the time, North Third Street was known as “Confectioner’s Row.”
Wilbur and Croft’s signature products were molasses and hard candies that they marketed to the railroad companies to be sold to train passengers. The business partners later moved to 1226 Market Street and expanded their business to include chocolate candies. In 1884, Wilbur and Croft ended their partnership. Wilbur went on to create the H.O. Wilbur & Sons Co. which manufactured chocolates, while Croft formed the Croft & Allen Co. and continued to focus on hard candies.
Henry Wilbur retired from H.O. Wilbur & Sons at age 59 and turned the company over to his two sons, William and Harry. The company continued to expand into the twentieth century opening factories in Lititz and Newark, N.J. Wilbur’s most famous candy is the Wilbur Bud, a bite-sized chocolate in the shape of a flower bud which first appeared in 1894, 13 years before the similar Hershey Kiss.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.