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.
John 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.
Ad is from the Star-Telegram of March 11, 1909, when front yards had gates.
King’s home address at 1214 West Presidio Street was on the eastern edge of Quality Hill.
Hugh 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.
In 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.
In 1920 Pangburn opened a cafeteria on Houston Street where the convention center is today.
Thus, 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 employees participated in amateur sports leagues. The Pangburn basketball team was the Candymakers.
From the 1940s.
In the sweet by-and-by, Valentine’s Day was made for lovers—of chocolates from King and Pangburn.
Hugh T. Pangburn died in 1928.
John 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.
The two sweetmeisters are buried just a bonbon’s throw apart in Greenwood Cemetery.
The 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.