A mysterious and ancient Milk Duds Box
A mysterious and ancient Milk Duds Box

Historian Leslie Goddard has a sweet tooth, to say the least. In fact, her sweet tooth is kind of necessary for her job. In 2003, Goddard started giving talks at the Des Plaines History Center that coincided with a Field Museum exhibit about chocolate. Since then, the few pieces of candy memorabilia she used for the talk have grown into an extensive collection, including everything from wrappers, ads, and pictures from candy factories.

“A lot of people have saved candy wrappers, candy boxes, and candy tins,” Goddard says. Her collection is constantly expanding as she continues to talk to audiences. She also browses antique shops and eBay, where she once found an original Milk Duds box.

Compared to other things one could collect, candy memorabilia isn’t particularly cumbersome. Goddard stores her collection in a couple of boxes and tries to take as much as she can to her talks, preserving fragile wrappers in plastic sleeves or frames.

Her fascination with the history of candy goes hand in hand with the nostalgia that her collection often invokes. “I’m always surprised at the intense emotions that old candy wrappers bring back. When you’re a kid, a lot of times the first thing you purchase is candy,” she says.

Goddard, who is also the executive director of the Graue Mill and Museum in Oak Brook, has a new book out: Chicago’s Sweet Candy History. A lot of major candy brands at one point had headquarters in Chicago, like Mars and Tootsie Roll. “It’s an important part of our history,” Goddard says.