Before the advent of electric lights and billboards, it was common for signs to be painted directly onto buildings. Local history detectives can still see faded lettering on some of our older structures. For instance, the side of the former Eckerd’s Drugs in the 700 block of Market Street has a sign for F. W. Woolworth. The back of the Grand Hotel still has the sign that once beckoned railroad travelers. The signage of the Fleetwood Coffee Co. on Eleventh Street has bled through the paint that was used to cover it after the company ceased operation. Next door to Fleetwood, “Bennett-Hubbard Candy” is on a small building where two of my favorite food groups, candy and peanut butter, were once manufactured.
Sanford Bennett and Stephen Hubbard were veterans of the confectionery industry by the time that they formed Bennett-Hubbard Candy. Mr. Bennett had been a partner with Albert Aull in a bakery/candy wholesale operation on Carter Street. Mr. Hubbard had moved to Chattanooga in 1893 from Chicago, where he had been employed by a large candy manufacturer. He had worked at other sweets factories in Chattanooga, including one at 7th and Market which also housed a saloon, and was a supervisor at the Brock Candy Company. Arthur Lazenby joined Bennett-Hubbard as its city sales manager, and had previously worked with Mr. Hubbard.
Bennett-Hubbard operated in a building on Eleventh Street which was next door to the Shubert Theater, later known as the Albert Theater. Their first candy was produced on March 18, 1919. In addition to hard candy and chocolates, the firm made chocolate marshmallows and peanut butter. Occasionally, the decorative peanut butter jars of Bennett-Hubbard are found at antique malls and shows. Bennett-Hubbard’s business increased during the 1920’s, and distributed its products throughout the South, Southwest, and Midwest. In those years, most candy was sold around Christmas, and candy manufacturers would have layoffs after the holidays. An advertisement for Bennett-Hubbard during the Christmas shopping season of 1928 read, “For unexpected guests! Candy about the house solves the problem of refreshments when guests arrive.”
In 1933, the company pursued a joint venture with another local business, cardboard manufacturer O. B. Andrews. The two businesses made the components of the “Jig Sucker.” A candy sucker was fastened to a piece of cardboard with illustrations printed on each side. On one side was a single picture and text of a nursery rhyme. The opposite side was one part of a 25-piece jigsaw puzzle. How many of you remember the “Addams Family” bubble gum cards of the 1960’s? If you were fortunate to buy them all, the cards formed a large portrait of Gomez and Morticia and family; same concept as the Jig Sucker. Bennett-Hubbard sold them for a penny, and, just a short time after their introduction, they were shipping 1 million a week all over the United States.
Sanford Bennett was very active in the business community. He served as president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1930, the first year following the stock market crash. Despite the troubles of the Great Depression, Mr. Bennett remained optimistic. In a 1933 interview, he said, “Times are not as bad as some people think, because people can find money to buy something they want.” He noted that his company had run full-time (six days a week and nights until 10 p.m.) since the market crashed. Innovation was the key: “Getting out something new all the time and keeping up to date keeps business going.”
Later in his career, Mr. Bennett was treasurer of Eleventh Street Realty and a director of Pioneer Bank.
While Bennett-Hubbard prospered during the Great Depression, World War II presented a different set of challenges. During the war, the government rationed sugar, and candy manufacturers were each given a quota. However, if a business acquired another, it received that company’s allotment. On March 11, 1943, it was announced that the 100-employee Bennett-Hubbard Candy Company would be sold to the Topps Chewing Gum Company – the baseball card people - of New York. Topps had only been in business since 1938, but had begun buying out smaller companies for their sugar quotas starting in 1942. In acquiring Bennett-Hubbard, Topps envisioned expanding their business into the South. The plant on Eleventh Street became a part of the Topps enterprise, and remained in operation until 1951. Since then, the building has been used by hardware dealer Moore-Handley, the Radio Sales Corporation, a warehouse for Loveman’s Department Store, and most recently, The Bay, a live music/dance club.
If you have memories of the Bennett-Hubbard Candy Company, or would like to comment on this article, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m interested in finding out more about other lines of candy and confections which they made. Possibly someone has an old catalog that was once carried by one of their salesmen.