Take your sweet tooth WAY back in time at this historic candy shop


This Harpers Ferry candy shop is a museum— with edible exhibits!

At True Treats Historic Candy, guilty pleasures are tasty heirlooms. It’s the only sweet shop of its kind in the nation, with historic research to recreate accurate vintage candies from every era.

“Just about everybody is surprised when they visit for the first time,” said owner Susan Benjamin.

Everything is arranged in chronological order, from honey sesame brittle— a favorite of the Greeks— to Charleston Chews and Bazooka gum.

True Treats puts the cherry on top of the already history-rich town of Harpers Ferry, where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both visited, and which played a major role in the Civil War.

Inside the flagship shop in a charming brick house built in 1843, sweets fill glass jars and poke out of vintage wooden boxes. Simple bookshelves line the walls, decorated with antique tea tins, vintage porcelain plates and whimsical chocolate containers.

Here’s a sampler of the sweets you can discover:

  • Ancient goodies: Native American fruit mixes and nuts, “bag o’ bugs” (really!), mastic resin (the original chewing gum), edible coffee and marshmallow root
  • 1600s and 1700s sweets: sorghum drops, cream filberts, fennel comfit, sugar plum blend
  • 1800s treats: Black Jack sticks, buttermints, NECCO Wafers, circus “peanuts,” caramel creams and peanut brittle
  • Retro delights: Goo Goo Clusters, Clark Bars, Sky Bars, Zagnuts, Chunky Bars and bubblegum cigars
  • 1900s classics: Napoleon Sours, C. Howard’s Violet Mints, gummy candies, licorice pipes, bridge mix and all sorts

You can even find unexpected dainties like violet syrup, candied rose petals and turn-of-the-century sodas.

And Susan’s always prowling for more forgotten favorites. As a scholar, authenticity matters to her. True Treats only sources companies that stay true to original recipes. Her Native American pemmican, for example, comes from a reservation in South Dakota.

Just like the sweets she studies and sells, Susan’s life is colorful, lively and never dull. When she’s not managing her busy shops in Harpers Ferry and Frederick, the candy curator writing history books and giving lectures around the country.

“The role of sugar in our history fascinates me,” she said.

And her fascination is infectious. Visitors are amazed at her knowledge and passion. She greets them with a charismatic introduction to the shop’s carefully crafted timeline of treats, and answers their questions with artful detail.

“Sometimes, I’ll be standing there, and a 14- or 15-year-old kid will come up and just stare at me,” Susan said. “He or she clearly wants or expects something. So I’ll greet them, and they’ll say, ‘Don’t you remember me?’ and I realize they used to come here as babies! It’s really, really cool when that happens.”

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This post was last updated on July 28, 2020