Mary Spencer, a local in Salem, Massachusetts, first began selling sweets via horse-drawn wagon in 1806. Her signature creations were Blackjacks, a kind of molasses-flavored taffy, and Salem Gibralters, also known simply as Gibralters. Made from a deceptively simple ingredient list of sugar, water cream of tartar, cornstarch, and flavorings like peppermint or lemon, these hard, milk-white confections quickly gained an avid following. By most accounts, Gibralters were the first candy to be made and commercially sold in the country. Spencer is such a point of pride that the nearby Peabody Essex Museum has her original cart on display.
After Spencer passed away in 1835, her son took over the business, then eventually sold it to John Pepper. George Burkinshaw bought the George W Pepper Companie in the early 20th century, along with the recipes for her beloved confections. Today, the fourth-generation business, which claims to be the oldest continuously operating candy company in the United States, still keeps this sweet tradition alive. Among the memorabilia on display are a Gibraltar candies that are more than 200 years old.
Know Before You Go
In addition to Gibralters and Blackjacks, the shop stocks everything from homemade fudge to horehound slugs.