From world-famous pizza to what is likely the world’s first hamburger, the city of New Haven is home to a remarkable amount of American food history. Among the city’s lesser-known — but no less notable — food-related firsts was the invention of the modern-day lollipop.
In 1908, George P. Smith of New Haven’s Bradley Smith Company submitted an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in hopes of securing exclusive rights to the name “lollipop.” A few years earlier, the Bradley Smith company had started selling hard candies on a stick under the name “lollipops” — a whimsical name Smith had borrowed from a prize-winning horse he had seen at a local racing track named Lolly Pop.
While Smith’s company was the first to sell these confections under the “lollipop” moniker, the concept of selling sweets on a stick had been around for decades, if not centuries. Smith received a harsh reminder of this very fact from the U.S. Trademark and Patent office, who rejected his original application after a diligent clerk discovered that the term “lollipop” had been defined in early 19th century British dictionaries as “a hard sweetmeat, sometimes on a stick.”
For years, the Bradley Smith Company continued to sell their increasingly popular candies under the “lollipop” name while Smith tried to think of a clever way around his copyright conundrum. Finally, in 1931, Smith submitted the name “Lolly Pop,” split into two words, and was granted a trademark for that name on October 13 of that same year. By that time, however, competing candy companies had been using the “lollipop” name so frequently that the two spellings soon became interchangeable. Only a few years later, in 1938, the struggling Bradley Smith Company was forced to cease its candy-making operations — but not before it had earned the city of New Haven yet another prestigious food history “first,” today in Connecticut history.
“New Haven Gives the Lollipop its Name,” connecticuthistory.org
Anne Ewbank, “Sticky Business,” The Daily Nutmeg