Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie in Salem is the oldest, continuously operated candy company in America, and much of its early history was rooted in Peabody.
In 1806, Mrs. Spencer began selling gibralters, a hard sugar candy, from her wagon in Salem. Upon her death, the candy making enterprise was taken over briefly by her son, and in 1830, it was sold to the Pepper family.
George W. Pepper took over the business from his father in 1864, and moved the candy manufacturing to the corner of Central and Elm Streets in Peabody. The Pepper family lived at the home at 4 Elm Street and factory was in the back.
The Pepper Candy Company was wildly successful – making specialty candies and cigars. It generated $200,000 in sales annually at its height.
In 1897, following the death of his first wife, George W. Pepper sold his business to Snow Rich of Salem.
However, following George W. Pepper’s death in 1902, the family attempted to re-enter the candy making business using the Pepper name. From 1902 to 1904, there were two competing Pepper Candy Companies run in Peabody – one on Elm Street and the other at 27 Central Street. After a long legal battle, the George W. Pepper Co. changed its name to the Peabody Candy Co.
George and Alice Burkinshaw, who met and married while working for the original Pepper Company, bought the business and the original recipes around 1910. It has been run by their family ever since.
Today, the legacy of Mrs. Spencer and George W. Pepper lives on at Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie on Derby Street in Salem and a second shop in North Andover. You can even buy a gibralter made from the original recipe.
Peabody Historical Society & Museum – Library and Archives
“The Gibralter” : Issued by the Pepper Co., Vol. 1, No. 4, 1890, held by the Peabody Essex Museum.
“Peabody Happenings – Death of G. W. Pepper” Salem News, November 20, 1902.
“Nationals’ oldest candy store, home of ‘Gibraltars’, moves”, Barbara Yagerman, The Salem Evening News, December 16, 1971.
The Peabody Story, John Wells. 1972, 353-354.