When you think about Easter, you can’t help but think of “Peeps.”
New Englanders buy enough of these marshmallow chicks to rank as one of the top three Peep-eating markets in the United States. Nationwide an estimated 700 million are sold each spring.
Before you read further, please see the disclaimer at the very end of this story. THEN read this amazing article by Carl Anthony: “Secret Black Sheep Peep? Easter Candy Mystery, Scandal & Father of the Jellybean.”
The lowly Peep had humble beginnings. Most folks know that in 1953 the Just Born Inc. company purchased the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. What is frequently forgotten is that Roscoe E. Rodda was the confectioner behind the Rodda Candy Company, and he probably produced the original marshmallow chick that we call a “Peep.”
Roscoe Rodda was born June 1862 in Michigan near Lake Superior, the son of Simon & Elizabeth Rodda. Roscoe’s father was a copper miner from Tywardreth, Cornwall Co. England who immigrated to the United States between 1842 and 1870. From 1879 to 1887 Roscoe Rodda was a candymaker in Detroit Michigan working for Gray, Toynton & Fox. From 1891 through 1900 Roscoe ran his own company in Cincinnati, Ohio, calling himself a confectioner. He married and had several children. By 1910 he had moved to Lancaster, PA where he owned the Rodda Candy Company. By 1920 he had removed to Baltimore, Maryland, but in 1930 was a widower having moved back to Lancaster PA. Still a candymaker he lived with his widowed sister, Kate. According to his tombstone, located in Greenwood Cemetery, Lancaster PA, he died in 1941.
To some, Peeps are more than a treat. Reportedly during the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Carl Lewis, Olympic medal winner, lived entirely on a diet of peeps. Lewis said this week he owes all of his success to peeps. “If you were to take an honest picture for the magazine covers, you’d probably hang all four of my medals from the neck of one of those little guys,” Lewis admitted to reporters. “There is no doubt that a half-dozen peeps in the morning and another half-dozen at noon helped me in all the events, especially the long jump.” [Lehigh Montville, Boston Globe]
But how did giving marshmallow chicks become popular? I remember that back in the 1950s (and before that) the gifting of real yellow chicks at Easter time was a usual tradition. The problem was that those cute little chicks grew up into roosters and chickens that presented a “disposal” problem to some. I’m not positive, but I suspect that once my own chicks grew up, they eventually ended up on our dinner table.
Current-day Peeps are certainly an improvement over the potentially salmonella-producing chicks, not to mention saving parents from a situation–how to explain the disappearance of the family poultry. An added bonus, Peeps are gluten free.
P.S. This is a repost of an article originally published April 19, 2007 on this blog.
**FAMILY TREE OF ROSCOE RODDA**
Benjamin Rodda, son of Benjamin & Anne (Symons) Rodda, b. 14 Oct 1777 in Perranuthnoe, Cornwall England. He married Grace Ralph.
Children of Benjamin & Grace (Ralph) Rodda:
1. Benjamin Rodda, b. 29 Oct 1797 in Crowan, Cornwall, England
2. Grace Rodda, b. 1799 in Crowan, Cornwall, England
3. Honour Rodda, b. 4 Sep 1804 in Crowan, Cornwall, England
4. Jennifer Rodda b. 1806
5. Martha Rodda, b. 1812
6. +Simon Rodda, b. 1815 [see below]
Simon Rodda, b. 1815 in England, son of Benjamin & Grace (Ralph) Rodda, married Elizabeth –. She b. abt 1821 in England. Sometime prior to 1870 they immigrated to the United States. They probably first settled in Michigan, as that is where their children were born. By 1870 they are found living in Coventry, Summit Co., Ohio. Simon was a miner.
Census > UK Census Collection > 1841 England Census > Cornwall > Tywardreth > District 4
Simon Rodda 25 copper miner
Elizabeth Rodda 20
Martha Rodda 2
William Rodda 2 months
Mary Gray 10 Coppermine Lab
Census > U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > Ohio > Summit > Coventry
Rodda Simon 55 M W Miner England [b abt 1815]
Rodda Elizabeth 50 F W keeping House England [b abt 1820]
Rodda Elizabeth 17 F W at home Michigan
Rodda, Catharine F W 14 at home Michigan
Rodda, Rosco E 9 M W Michigan
Scandlebury Wm 29 M W Miner England
Simmons Wm 27 M W Miner England
J.W. Weeks & Co.’s annual directory of the inhabitants, business firms, incorporated companies, etc., of Detroit, for 1874-75
Roda, Charles, lab, h w s German bet Chene and Dubois
Rodda Rosteina, cigarmaker, h German bet Chene and Jos Campau ave.
Rodda Samuel J, machinist, h 100 Jay.
Rodda Simon Sr., engineer, h 12th nr Grand River ave.
Rodda Wm H., founder and machinist, n w cor Atwater and St. Antoine, h 129 Adams ave e. [in 1876 shows clk, bds s s McLean, bet 10th and 12th] [in 1886, Rodda Anna, wid Wm H, h 20 Henry. [1876 states Marine, Stationary and Portable Engine mfr]
Detroit city directory for 1879
Rodda, Roscoe E., candymkr Gray, Toynton & Fox bds 259 McLean [same for 1886, but called confectioner]
Rodda, Simon J. engr, h. 100 Joy
Rodda Wm H. mach n e cor Atwater and St. Antoine, h 129 Adams ave e
U.S. Census > 1880 United States Federal Census > Michigan > Wayne > Detroit > District 298
Rodda Simon W M 65 Laborer England Eng Eng
Rodda, Elizabeth W F 61 Wife keeping house Eng Eng Neg
Rodda, Kate W F 23 dau works in seed store Lake Superior, Mich, Engl Eng
Rodda, Roscoe W M 19 son works in candy store , Lake Superior Mich, England, England
Bartholick, Julia W F 65 Boarder on don’t of money VT VT VT
Johnson, Charlotte W F 40 dau keeping house NY NJ VT
Cincinnati, Ohio Directory, 1890-91
about Roscoe E. Rodda
Name: Roscoe E. Rodda
Location 2: boards 61 W. 9th
Occupation: candy maker
Year: 1890, 1891
Children of Simon & Elizabeth (–) Rodda [may be other children]:
1. Martha Rodda, b. abt 1821 England
2. William Rodda, b. abt. about 1841 in Twardreth, Cornwall Co. England
3. Elizabeth Rodda, b. abt 1853 Michigan
4. Catharine/Kathryn Rodda, b abt 1854-1856 in Michigan; m. 17 Feb 1892 in Cook Co. IL to James H. Laing.
5. +Roscoe E. Rodda, b. June 1862 in Michigan; he m. Lula M. Chetham. Had children.
Roscoe E. Rodda, son of Simon & Elizabeth Rodda, was born June 1862 in Lake Superior, Michigan, and died in 1941 in Lancaster, PA. He married 28 Oct 1885 in Cook Co., Illinois to Lula/Luella May Chetham, daughter of Samuel Cyrus & Minnie Marie (Wells) Chetham. She was born 9 Jul 1869 in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, and died 27 May 1929 in Zion, Lake Co., IL. She is buried in Lancaster, PA. He was a confectioner, candy maker, first producer of a marshmallow treat we now call “Peeps.” [see subject of this story].
U.S. Census > 1900 United States Federal Census > Ohio > Hamilton > Cincinnati > District 12
Rodda, Roscoe Head W M June 1862 35 married 14 yrs MN Eng Eng Confectioner
Rodda Leula/Lula wife F W July 1868 32 married 14 yrs 4 ch 3 living IL England NY
Rodda, Grace, dau F W June 1887 single Mich MN IL at school
Rodda, Emmons son W M Feb 1891 9 single IL MN IL at school
Rodda, Charlotte dau F W June 1898 1 single Ohio MN IL
Bosse, Emma servant W F Feb 1892 single Ohio Ger Ger house maid
Pennsylvania 1910 Miracode Index
Name: Roscoe E Rodda
Birthplace: Minnesota [should be Michigan]
State: PA Age: 49 Color: W
Enumeration District: 0062 Visit: 0095
County: Lancaster, Lancaster
Relation: Head of Household
Other Residents: Relation Name Age Birth Place
Wife Lula/Loula M 41 Illinois
Daughter Grace A 22 Michigan
Son Emmons A 19 Illinois [mn Alger, b. 24 Feb 1891 Chicago IL, d. 2 June 1972 Cape Coral, Lee Co. FL]
Son Lawrence C 07 Illinois
Son John A 05 Illinois
Daughter Charlotte E 10 Ohio
Census > U.S. Census > 1920 United States Federal Census > Maryland > Baltimore (Independent City) > Baltimore Ward 15 > District 255
Rodda, Roscoe E. Head M W 60 married Mich Engl Engl Confectioner Wholesale
Rodda, Lula M. wife F W 50 M IL Engld NY
Rodda, Charlotte E. dau F W 20 single Ohio Mich IL Teacher
Rodda, Lawrence C. son M W 17 single IL Mich IL no occup
Rodda, John A. Son W M 15 single IL Mich IL
Census > U.S. Census > 1930 United States Federal Census > Pennsylvania > Lancaster > Lancaster > District 65
Lang, [sic Laing] Kathryn Head 6000 F W 72 widow MN Engl Engl no occupation
Rodda Roscoe Brother W M 68 widow Michigan Engl ENgl confections Manufacturer
Palmer, Bessie, niece F W 35 single PA PA PA saleslady department
Lancaster Minister Takes Bride
LANCASTER, Pa., July 20 — Rev. Joseph T. Herson, pastor of Lancaster Avenue Methodist Church of this city was married at noon today to Miss Grace A. Rodda, daughter of Roscoe E. Rodda, a prominent manufacturer of this city. The ceremony was performed by the bridegroom’s brother, Rev. Frank F. Herson, of Boyertown, Pa., assisted by Rev. J. P. Carman of West Creek, N.J. The best man was Rev. George Johnson of Camden NJ and the maid of honor Miss Ruth Mildred Rodda, of Detroit Michican. Following a wedding dinner, Rev. and Mrs. Herson left for Atlantic City.
— From Philadelphia Inquirer, of Thurs July 21, 1910, Vol 63, Issue 21, page 3
The obituary of Roscoe E. Rodda appears in the Baltimore Sun (Baltimore MD) on 13 July 1941 . ROSCOE E. RODDA.
Funeral services for Roscoe E. Rodda, well-known figure in the candy industry, who died July 7, took place Wednesday at Lancaster, Pa. Mr. Rodda died at the home of his son, Emmons A. Rodda, at East Falls Church, Va. Early in the century he founded and later withdrew from the candy company which bears his name in Lancaster, Pa. From 1916 to 1928 he was president of the Headley Chocolate Company and in later years acted as consultant to candy manufacturers in various parts of the United States and Canada. Surviving are his two daughters, Mrs. Grace R. Herson, of College Park, and Mrs. Charlotte R. Reed of Baltimore, and two other sons, Lawrence C., and John A. Rodda, of Baltimore.
Children of Roscoe E. & Lula/Luella M. (Chetham) Rodda:
1. Grace A. Rodda, b. June 1887 in Michigan; she m. July 1910 in Lancaster, PA to Rev. Joseph T. Herson. He was b. abt 1879 Ireland, and had married 1st) Elizabeth Bell who died 30 July 1908 at Wiconisco PA.
2. Emmons Alger Rodda, b. 24 Feb 1891 in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, d. 2 June 1972 Cape Coral, Lee Co. FL; In 1917 his WWI Draft card shows him a superintendent at the R.E. Rodda Candy Company in Lancaster PA, and that he had a wife and child at that time. His 1942 WWII Draft Registration shows him living at East Falls Church VA working for the U.S. Navy Dept. in Washington D.C. He married 1st) 12 Jun 1912 in Boyle Co. Kentucky to Francis Bright Metcalf, who was b. abt 1906. He married 2nd) 20 Sep 1941 in College Park, Prince Georges Co MD to Rita Anna Johnson, daughter of Elza Charles & Ada May (Mershon) Johnson, and had one child, a daughter. Rita was b. 22 Feb 1905 in Maquoketa, Jackson Co, Iowa, and d. 10 Dec 1964 in Sarasota FL. [She had married 1st, 27 Oct 1927 in NY NY to Johannes/John B. Nicholson. They had one child.]
3. daughter, b. 27 Nov 1893 in Chicago, Cook Co. IL
4. Charlotte Rodda, b. June 1898 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She married James R. Reed. She moved to Baltimore MD with her parents in 1919 from Lancaster PA. She studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She was the piano accompanist for the Baltimore and Ohio Glee Club for more than 30 years. She was survived by a daughter, Mrs. Charlotte Lou Reed McManus of Baltimore, a son, James R. Reed Jr. of Dayton OH.
5. Lawrence C. “Larry” Rodda, b. 1902 in IL, d. 1989 MD; artist
6. John A. Rodda, b. 1 January 1905 in IL, died 1 April 1994 in Maryland; In 1930 lodging in Baltimore MD with his sister Grace, in the family of W. J. & Caroline Latch. At that time John was a railroad clerk.
Final note and Disclaimer: in March of 2011, I was contacted by a woman who said she was the granddaughter of Roscoe Rodda, and that he never made the marshmallow candy that we know today as “Peeps.”
[article first posted Posted on 11 March 2008; updated January 2015]