This year M&Ms turn 75 years old. And one of the things I always wondered about them was why, given all the American and British magazines I had to go through for my dissertation that were published during World War II, I never saw an ad for M&M's (and also, why M&M's had an apostrophe).
So when I walked into my local Walgreen's to pick up a prescription and was greeted with a large 75th anniversary display for M&M's, I decided to finally find the answers to my questions.
M&Ms are made by the Mars company, founded by Franklin Clarence Mars (1882-1934). Frank contracted polio when he was young and, although he recovered somewhat, he stayed home with his mother, a woman who loved to bake. To keep Frank busy, she taught him how to make candy.
Eventually he married, had a son, Forrest Mars, and got divorced. Forrest was sent to Canada to live with his mother's parents. Frank was beginning to be successful in the candy business, and founded a company called Mar-O-Bar that made a candy bar by the same name. He didn't see his son Forrest years and by now Forrest was working as a traveling salesman. He was arrested in Chicago for illegally posting ads on buildings, and his father came to bail him out of jail.
While sitting at a soda fountain and talking, Forrest suggested his father make a candy bar that tasted like the malted milk shakes they were drinking and the Milky Way was born. Father and son began working together, and it didn't take long for them to become Mars Inc., and to begin producing Snickers and 3 Musketeers bars.
Frank died suddenly in 1934, while Forrest was in Europe with his wife and son trying to establish Mars Ltd there. While in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, he noticed soldiers eating small pieces of chocolate candy that didn't melt in their hands because they had a hard sugar shell coating. Once World War II began, he remembered those candies from Spain and decided to produce something similar.
In 1939, Forrest met with William Murrie, president of the Hershey Chocolate Company. Forrest wanted Hershey to provide the chocolate for his new candy and agreed to call them M&M's - M for Mars and M for Murrie, and making the apostrophe a possessive one. In 1940, M&M LTD was formed and began to produce their version of little chocolate candy pieces coated in a shell that wouldn't melt.
M&M's may not be included in C-Rations anymore, but they do still support the military in different ways, as you can see in this 2005 ad:
Today, M&M's come in a variety of colors and kinds, represented by 6 lovable spokescandies.
And even though they don't really melt in your mouth and not in your hands anymore, they still taste mighty fine.
FYI: Most of my information Frank and Forrest Mars came from a book called The Mars Family: M&M Mars Candy Makers by Joanne Mattern.
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