Salt Water Taffy

by R. Cohen | Apr 13, 2015
Salt Water Taffy To begin with, salt water taffy is not made from salt water. You do need some salt and some water to make a batch of taffy, however. But the name "salt water taffy" doesn't come from the ingredients.

No one knows for sure exactly where the name "salt water taffy" came from. The most popular story involves a shopkeeper on the Atlantic City Boardwalk named David Bradley. In 1883, a tidal surge from a summer storm swamped Bradley's store and buried his inventory in sea water. As he was cleaning up the following day a girl walked into his store and asked for a bag of taffy. Bradley was supposed to have sarcastically invited his young customer to help herself to his "salt water taffy." Bradley's mother thought his grumpy remark to be catchy and encouraged him to begin selling his candy as "salt water taffy."

Historians record the first mention of "salt water taffy" in Atlantic City business directories in 1889. The term was never trademarked, however, and whatever its origins it became the accepted way to market taffy. Just as no one knows who first called the sweet candy "salt water taffy," there is no record of who boiled the first vat of sugar, corn syrup, water, cornstarch, butter and salt to make the first taffy. Taffy is thought to have been a popular confection at country fairs in the Midwest by the 1880s and it was certainly being sold in America's first seaside resort by that time - Atlantic City.

Salt water taffy is the quintessential souvenir of a trip to the seashore and for that we have a confectioner named Joseph Fralinger to thank.

It was his idea to sell the candy to bathers and strollers along the Boardwalk in boxes that could be carted home as a souvenir. He was so sure of his idea that he purchased 200 boxes and filled them with his slender, finger-sized logs of taffy. He started selling his souvenir boxes on a Saturday evening and by Sunday morning he had sold out his entire supply to departing vacationers.

It did not take long for Fralinger's competitors to notice his success. Enoch James left his home in the Midwest to join the taffy wars with his square bite-size serving of salt water taffy. Both men prospered and more than 100 years later James's deLuxe Confections and Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy are still two of the biggest suppliers of salt water taffy on the Jersey Shore.

Today, although it probably wasn't invented at the seashore and it doesn't contain any salt water, salt water taffy is available wherever vendors set up shop near the shore. No trip to the beach can be complete without bringing home some salt water taffy.

If you are craving some of the sweet, sticky stuff, here are some links to help you satisfy your cravings without going to the beach:

Shrivers (9th and Boardwalk, Ocean City):

James' deLuxe Confections, Bayard's Chocolates, and Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy (Atlantic City, Wildwood, Cape May, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, Cherry Hill and Cinnaminson):


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