What’s in a Name? The History of Salt Water Taffy


Written by: Maureen Devenny


No visit to the shore is complete without salt water taffy, the colorful and sweet seashore candy with the unusual name. With a name like salt water taffy, there has got to be a great story behind it!


One story goes that, in the 1880s, a storm hit Atlantic City, causing waves to wash across the boardwalk. A taffy cart parked on the boardwalk got drenched with ocean water. The morning after the storm, the cart’s owner opened for business to discover that the taffy inside had gotten wet. A little girl came up to the cart to buy a piece, and the owner said he had only “salt water taffy” to sell to her. Another version of the story omits the storm, and instead says that the owner did not fully seal the cart one night, so salt air got into the taffy and changed the consistency.


Salt Water Taffy

This postcard, dated around 1880, shows vacationers purchasing salt water taffy at Fralinger’s. Photo from what-when-how.com.


A third explanation is that renaming regular taffy as “salt water taffy” was a marketing tactic for candy sellers. The thought was that vacationers and day-trippers would purchase “salt water taffy” as a beach-specific souvenir to bring back home. Makes sense, right?


Although the third explanation is the least interesting, it is probably the right one. Especially after you learn that there is no actual salt water in salt water taffies!


Regardless of the disagreement among origin stories, we can all agree that salt water taffy is a delicious part of any beach trip. Don’t leave the shore without buying a box to enjoy as a year-round reminder of summer!


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