The History of Marshmallows

Who invented marshmallows and marshmallow peeps and fluff?

Toasting marshmallows
Diane Macdonald/ Photographer's Choice/ Getty images

Marshmallow candy originated in ancient Egypt. It was a honey candy that was flavored and thickened with Marsh-Mallow plant sap.

The Herbal Properties of the Marsh-Mallow Plant

The Marsh-Mallow plant was harvested from salt marshes and on banks near large bodies of water. According to Viable Herbal Solutions "Nineteenth century doctors extracted juice from the marsh mallow plant's roots and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped the mixture into a foamy meringue that later hardened, creating a medicinal candy used to soothe children's sore throats.
Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes and improved texturing agents eliminated the need for the gooey root juice altogether. Unfortunately, that eliminated the confection's healing properties as a cough suppressant, immune system booster and wound healer."

Making Marshmallow Candy

Until the mid 1800's, marshmallow candy was made using the sap of the Marsh-Mallow plant. Gelatin replaces the sap in the modern recipes. Today's marshmallows are a mixture of corn syrup or sugar, gelatin, gum arabic and flavoring.

The candy makers needed to find a new, faster way of making marshmallows. As a result, the "starch mogul" system was developed in the late 1800s. Rather than making marshmallows by hand, the new system let candy makers create marshmallows in molds made of modified cornstarch (like jelly beans, gummies and candy corn are made today). At about the same time, mallow root was replaced by gelatin, providing marshmallows with their "stable" form.

In 1948, Alex Doumak, a marshmallow manufacturer, began experimenting with different methods of marshmallow making. Doumak was looking for ways to speed up production and discovered the "extrusion process", which revolutionized marshmallow production. Now, marshmallows can be made by piping the fluffy mixture through long tubes and cutting its tubular shape into equal pieces.

In 1953, the Just Born candy company bought the Rodda Candy Company. Rodda produced a handmade candy marshmallow chick and Bob Born of Just Born loved the way the marshmallow chick looked. A year later in 1954, Bob Born had a machine made that would mass-produce marshmallow chicks, which he trademarked Peeps.

Just Born soon became the largest Marshmallow candy manufacturer in the world. In the 1960s, Just Born started manufacturing seasonally shaped Marshmallow Peeps.

In the early 1980s, Just Born released the Marshmallow Peeps Bunny.

Until 1995, Marshmallow Peeps were only produced in pink, white, and yellow colors. In 1995, lavender colored Peeps were introduced; and in 1998, blue Peeps were introduced for Easter.

In 1999, vanilla flavored Peeps were produced and a year later, a strawberry flavor was added. In 2002, a chocolate Peep was introduced.

Photo Credit

Marshmallow Peeps are seen on display at McCaffrey's Supermarket April 18, 2003 in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Just Born, the manufacturer of Marshmallow Peeps, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Marshmallow Peeps, and now produces more than one billion individual Peeps per year. Last Easter, more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps and Bunnies were consumed by men, women, and children throughout the United States. Strange things people like to do with Marshmallow Peeps: eat them stale, microwave them, freeze them, roast them and use them as a pizza topping. Marshmallow Peeps and Bunnies come in five colors.

People have been known to eat it straight from the jar, but it's been put to use more often in a marshmallow fudge named for Mamie Eisenhower (alternatively called Never-Fail Fudge), or in a sandwich fit for a king (if you're Elvis, that is) called the Fluffernutter.

According to The History of Fluff: "In the early 1900s, Archibald Query of Somerville made the first Fluff in his kitchen and sold it door to door.

However, due to the sugar shortages of World War I, Query was not successful. He sold the secret Fluff formula to two enterprising confectioners, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, for $500. These two renamed their product "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff" and in 1920 made their first sale of three gallons of Fluff to a vacation lodge in New Hampshire. The price was a dollar a gallon."