In the Sweet By-and-By: Candyman, Candyman, First First Lady

Say the words King and Pangburn and Martha Washington to longtime Fort Worth residents, and their sweet tooth might begin to throb.

King Candy Company, Pangburn Company, and Martha Washington Candies Company were not the only candy makers in town, but they are the best remembered.

king 6-7-05 teleJohn Porter King, born in Brenham in 1861, moved to Fort Worth with his family in 1870 and studied at Add-Ran College in Thorp Spring. He worked as a dry-goods clerk for B. C. Evans and in 1888 was elected county clerk. He served for ten years and then opened his Southern Cold Storage and Produce Company on East 9th Street in 1898. He opened his candy factory on East 9th Street in 1906. The factory eventually would employ 450 people. Clip is from the June 7, 1905 Telegram.

king 3-11-9 st 2Ad is from the Star-Telegram of March 11, 1909, when front yards had gates.

king-1911-cdKing’s home address at 1214 West Presidio Street was on the eastern edge of Quality Hill.

pangburn 11-13-02 teleHugh T. Pangburn was born in Kentucky in 1875 but grew up in Dallas and worked in a drugstore there before moving to Fort Worth. In 1902 he opened a drugstore on Houston Street, selling patent medicines such as Herbine. Clip is from the November 13, 1902 Telegram.

pangburn 11-21-15 stIn 1914 Pangburn began manufacturing ice cream. In the kitchen of his drugstore that year he also whipped up the first batch of what would become Pangburn’s Millionaires candies. His recipe included pecans, milk chocolate, caramel, and honey. In 1915 Pangburn added a candy factory to the ice cream factory on West 7th Street just east of Summit Avenue. Clip is from the November 21, 1915 Star-Telegram.

pangburn-cafeteriaIn 1920 Pangburn opened a cafeteria on Houston Street where the convention center is today.

pangburn-1920Thus, by 1920 Hugh T. Pangburn had his ice cream and candies plant, a cafeteria, a chocolate shop, and a drugstore.

Pangburn’s Cafeteria later was located at 805 Houston Street.

pangburn-basketballPangburn employees participated in amateur sports leagues. The Pangburn basketball team was the Candymakers.

txwoco-adsAds from the TXWOCO yearbook of Texas Woman’s College in the 1920s.

pangburn-colorFrom the 1940s.

king-pangburn-cupid
In the sweet by-and-by, Valentine’s Day was made for lovers—of chocolates from King and Pangburn.

pangburn 28 obitHugh T. Pangburn died in 1928.

king obit 48 piJohn Porter King, who had been county clerk in the 1890s and had developed the Oakhurst section of Sylvania, died in 1948 at the Fort Worth Club. King’s son John Jr. took over the company after King Sr. died. Clip is from the August 11, 1948 Dallas Morning News.

king pangburn gravesThe two sweetmeisters are buried just a bonbon’s throw apart in Greenwood Cemetery.

king-closesThe King candy company closed in 1978. The building later housed an antiques mall.
The Pangburn brand was bought by the Russell Stover company in 1999.

Elie Sheetz was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1849. In 1892 he left the family farm, moved to the big city of Lancaster, and became a candy maker. He began modestly: His first “factory” was his wife’s stove. He often had to pawn his watch to buy sugar. He hired boys to sell his candy.
But he persisted. In 1906 Sheetz trademarked the brand name “Martha Washington Candies.” He opened his first store, then his second, selling candies and ice cream. By the 1920s Sheetz owned a chain of stores.

In 1925 the Star-Telegram announced that Martha Washington Candies was coming to Cowtown.

Ad is from 1926. Martha Washington Candies had two Fort Worth locations.

The 1412 West Magnolia Avenue location (pictured) was a factory, office, and shop. The 704 (later 610) Main Street location was a shop only. (Photo from Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal.)

The West Magnolia buildings today.

According to the deed card for 1412 West Magnolia, the front building housing the shop and office was built in 1920; the rear building housing the factory was built in 1928.

Elie Sheetz was a collector of antiques, especially mirrors, some of which dated back to 1815. Some of his mirrors hung in his stores. In 1929 the Sanger Bros. department store displayed three mirrors (probably on loan from the Main Street candy shop) that had hung in the White House of President Buchanan.
At the company’s peak there were more than two hundred Martha Washington stores and fifteen factories making candy and ice cream.
The company name was so well known that during the 1930s and 1940s comedians on radio joked about it:
Cliff Arquette, asked if he knew who George Washington was: “Yeah, he’s the man whose wife makes the candy.”
George Burns, asked what he would do if wife Gracie became president: “I guess I can always start a candy store.”
The Fred Allen show, playing off the familiar claim by old inns that “George Washington slept here”: “I think Martha Washington slept here—I found two gumdrops in my bed.”
Eddie Stanley, reading a letter from home: “Your little brother Skippy doesn’t want to be like George Washington anymore. He says, ‘Look how it turned out with Martha and her candy stores . . . and if George Washington is ‘the father of’ a hundred million people in our country, how did Martha have time to make candy?”

But the Depression hit the company hard. Sheetz’s shops began to close. In 1932 Elie Sheetz sold his interest in the company. He died four months later. Elie Sheetz is buried, fittingly, in Washington, D.C. (Photo from Find A Grave.)

Most of the Martha Washington shops had closed by the 1940s. But the two in Fort Worth remained open. In 1947 the factory was hiring packers, wrappers, and dippers.

That’s your cue, Ethel and Lucy.

The two Fort Worth locations were luckier than most: The shop on Main survived until 1952; the West Magnolia factory and office were vacant by 1953.

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28 Responses to In the Sweet By-and-By: Candyman, Candyman, First First Lady

  1. Susan E Stephens says:

    I would love to know the connection of the King family and my mother, Edith Bolling Ware.
    My mother was raised by the Jalonick family and when she first met the family she was three years old and she took a box of King’s chocolates to Issac and Katherine Jalonick. She lived with them until their deaths. Her father was Meredith William Ware

    • hometown says:

      Susan E. Stephens, I know about the King family only what appears in this post. Perhaps another reader will see your comment and offer help.

  2. STEVE STEVENS says:

    My grandmother, Mary Constance Dunnam Poland worked for King Candy Co. as Mr. King’s secretary in 1923-1925 when she got married to my grandfather who was a district mgr for A&P grocery. They moved to Corsicana where he opened the first A&P in that town in 1925. My mother was born in 1928 and said that during the time she was growing up, she remembered Mr. King sending 2 boxes of King Candies every Christmas until he died.

  3. Jim stewart says:

    My father was a candy maker at kings candy co. In the early twenty’s and he met my mother there ,when she was a candy stripper .jimstewart.

  4. Mary King Ward says:

    Would love to purchase any King Candy of Fort Worth memorabilia as I am related to John Porter King.

    • Lorrie Mckenzie says:

      Good evening, Ms. Ward. I have a King’s wood chocolate box that someone in the past has taken the liberty of painting a nature scene on the top of the box. I would be glad for you to have it.

  5. James Burns says:

    I worked at Kings from 1966 to 1968, got drafted, got out in 1970, worked back at Kings till they shut down in 1978. I miss working there. After Kings went to Pangburns on se loop 820.

  6. Hi. The reason I got on this site is because of my aunt in which had a beauty parlor back in the 40’s. Will she had this candy box that had very old clipper’s and razors Then I noticed the name on the box it say’s PANGBURN’S RAGTIME WESTERN STYLE “RUFF-DIP”.It’s kind of neat to find something that has a backround to and it’s been in the family for Decade’s

  7. Ann Blocker Bastable says:

    Greatly enjoyed this article. I have always recalled Martha Washington’s on Main as a “tea room.” Didn’t know the history as a candy/ice cream store. As a child, I thought it was very fancy.
    A lady from our church worked at Pangburn’s and always smelled like chocolate. If you were lucky enough to be riding the bus when ladies from Pangburn’s got off work, the bus would soon smell wonderful!

  8. HalloweenCandy says:

    Later in the Pangburn’s chocolate history, was a product in the mid 70’s called: “Trog-Lo-Dytes”….which was a cardboard package that had different colorful graphics (funny faces, etc) on the front of each one. After the disc of chocolate was removed (and ultimately consumed) the package could be squeezed creating a “Mad magazine” type of illustration that would “change” — making the art into something different by the squeeze of the hand. They had a series of these cardboard inserts that could be collected and traded. One of the first candies that I remember that the packaging was collected instead of tossed in the trash. What an innovation for the 70’s kid !

  9. C R McCaffrey says:

    Found a King’s French creams 1lb. candy box today that my mom had used to keep pictures in. Decided to look to see if the company still existed and found a trove of interesting facts about the company and when it ceased to exist. Was hoping it was still around,… I love French creams.

  10. Becky Blanton says:

    I’d like to know more about the Cowgirls and trick riders known as “Pangborn Candy Girls.”

    • hometown says:

      Becky, most of my information about Pangburn comes from newspaper archives, and a search using combinations of the keywords Pangburn/Pangburn’s, cowgirls, candy, girls turns up nothing.

    • Connie Price says:

      Here is info on one of the girls. A rider from early on, Jerry’s skill on a horse carried her far from her hometown of Seymour, Texas. Her trick riding and roping landed her jobs as a Pangburn Candy Girl, work with Tex Ritter in England and performances with Gene Autry’s rodeo. Known for her flamboyant style of riding and dressing, Jerry traveled the county in her trademark convertible Cadillac with matching horse trailer. (National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame website) If you look her up at the website there is a picture of her.

  11. Mary King says:

    My family owned King Candy Company, and I would love to buy any King Candy candy boxes, signs, tins or other memorabilia. Please contact me at mlward4465@yahoo.com

  12. Rhonda R Martindale says:

    My great uncle Raymond Meyers was a Vice President for many years with Pangburn Candy. I had always heard stories of him working at a candy factory in Forth Worth, but never knew the name of it.

  13. Donnie Perry says:

    I have a written story of my Grand Dad riding a train from Cheyenne Wyoming to Texas City Texas taking his Cornels horse. And stop in Fort Worth wound up ridin the horse back to the Depotefrpm the livery stable past Kings candy and getting thrown off. Lost his hat and a girl on the second floor was waving his hat out the window that she had found and he went up to get it. This is just a short excerpt of the story, it was an 8day trip on the train. Also he caught a bandit that had been robbing people around that area and it was in the Fort Worth paper.

  14. Ms. Burton says:

    Was a Campfire girl in the early 1960s. I believe King’s Chocolate company made the candy we sold. I vaguely remember visiting the factory at that time. Are my memories correct?

    • hometown says:

      Ms. Burton, King’s was still in business at that time on the eastern edge of downtown, but I don’t know if King’s made the candy that Campfire girls sold.

  15. Ralph Shrom says:

    My mother, now deceased, was born in Ft. Worth in 1923. Her sister/my aunt, tells me that the Bass Family had a financial interest in King Candy. Is it so? Can’t really find a connection.

    • hometown says:

      Mr. Shrom, I know of no connection, but that proves nothing. It was common for local capitalists to fraternize and to invest in the businesses of each other. It’s possible that Sid Richardson or Perry Richardson Bass or Sid Bass had an interest in King Candy.

  16. Susan Pounds says:

    My mother, born in 1924, grew up in Ft. Worth and was friends with many of the established business people. As a child she took me to the King Candy Company to buy candy. We went directly into the factory and I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted. We mainly went to the hard candy area. My mother would commission the candy makers to make a candy basket for my teachers as a gift for a holiday or end of school, etc…These candy baskets were the actual size of a woven hand basket and were filled with individual hand rolled/cut hard candies. These were all hand made and sparkly beautiful. Best memories ever!

  17. Karen Cameron (Briggs) says:

    My dad, Doyce Roland Briggs, worked at the Ft. Worth plant in 1943 as a chocolate boy. He would take big, heavy slabs of chocolate and add them to the chocolate cauldron to melt for the bon bon ladies.

    • hometown says:

      Chocolate boy! That’s a job that would have stumped the panelists–even Bennett Cerf–on What’s My Line?

  18. Janean Breaux says:

    Our neighbor worked at the Pangburn Factory and we had a lot of their chocolates. Millionaires were my favorite. His surname was King.

  19. Nancy Brownlee says:

    There’s a long tradition, in my family and starting with my grandmother, of giving women a big box of Pangburn’s Millionaires. All we had to do is give birth. (My grandfather was a pharmacist, and always had them in stock.)

    • Don Ellis says:

      Nancy Brownlee,

      Who was your grandfather and where was he a pharmacist? I knew most of the pharmacists in FTW, since my Dad was the King Candy salesman.
      Thanks, Don Ellis

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