Salt Water Taffy (1939)

Baker, John JBaker at STRADLEY.COM
Sun Aug 5 22:37:42 UTC 2001

        The story sounds plausible (especially in the detailed form given on, but it doesn't seem to check out.  The Supreme Court has
never used the phrase "salt water taffy" in an opinion, nor did any other
court prior to a passing reference by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in
1932.  Schladensky v. Continental Life Ins. Co., 104 Pa. Super. 191, 194,
159 A. 195, 196.  The Supreme Court has never had a case with a party named
either Edmiston or James Brothers (or, for that matter, James Bros.).

John Baker

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bapopik at AOL.COM [SMTP:Bapopik at AOL.COM]
> Sent: Saturday, August 04, 2001 9:37 AM
> Subject:      Salt Water Taffy (1939)
>    Perhaps the next DARE will have "Salt Water Taffy."  This story comes
> up on only one  The site appears to have a
> Fralinger bias, however.
>    From the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 18 September 1939, pg. 12, col. 4:
> _J. R. Edmiston,_
> _Candy Maker,_
> _Dies in Jersey_
> ----------------
> _Asserted He Originated Salt_
>    _Water Taffy, but Court_
>    _Rejected Claim to Name_
>    WILDWOOD, N. J., Sept. 17--John Ross Edmiston, sr., former candy
> manufacturer, who said that he was the originator of salt water taffy,
> died after a heart attack in his store on the boardwalk here today.  He
> was eighty-six years old.
>    For years Mr. Edmiston was involved in litigation over salt water
> taffy, over which he claimed the sole proprietary right.  His attempt to
> bar all other manufacturers from the profits derived from salt water taffy
> finally met defeat by decision of the United States Supreme Court in
> April, 1925.
>    Mr. Edmiston was born in Tyrone, Pa.  A graduate of Lebanon Business
> College, he taught penmanship before opening a candy store on the
> boardwalk in Atlantic CIty in 1884.  His taffy became so popular that his
> customers insisted that he give it a distinctive name.
>    _Salt Water Hit Candy_
>    According to the story of the origin of salt water taffy, one day when
> the surf pounded on the shore more vigorously than usual, some of the
> water splashed over Mr. Edmiston's stand onto a slab where some of the
> candy was cooling.  Fearful that the brine had ruined his taffy, Mr.
> Edmiston tested the confection and found that the water had not
> penetrated.  Thus he hit upon the idea of calling it salt water taffy.
>    Unaware at the time of the appeal his trademark would exert on the
> public, Mr. Edmiston permitted another enterprising tradesman to outbid
> him when his lease was up for renewal.  Mr. Edmiston took up another stand
> a block away, while his successor, Joseph Fralinger, took up the
> manufacture of salt water taffy.
>    After suffering losses in a fire in 1886 Mr. Edmiston left Atlantic
> CIty for Chicago, where he opened four stores.  He recovered and augmented
> his fortune during the Columbian Exposition of 1893.
>    Chiefly as a result of unfortunate real estate investments, Mr.
> Edmiston subsequently lost almost everything he had.  He left Chicago in
> 1896 to resume candy manufacturing in New Orleans.
>    _Litigation Began in 1923_
>    The protracted litigation over the trade name began in 1923, when Mr.
> Edmiston applied to the United States Patent Office for the exclusive
> right to call his confection salt water taffy; He was told that he would
> have to apply under a proviso which required him to state that for ten
> years prior to 1905 he had been, to the best of his knowledge, the sole
> manufacturer of the candy.  After he had done so his petition for
> registration of the trademark was granted.
>    Mr. Edmiston thereupon notified all other manufacturers to cease use of
> the name, adding that he inteded to collect royalties on all such candy
> made under the name of salt-water taffy since 1895.  Since the payment of
> such royalties would have involved millions of dollars, the candy
> manufacturers, under the leadership of the James Brothers, of Atlantic
> City, made application for cancellation of the registration of the
> trademark, as was permitted by law.
>    The case was carried to the highest court, which ruled against Mr.
> Edmiston.
> ("Salt water taffy" is not the only American food/drink to be named after
> a disaster.  See an earlier posting on "pink lemonade"--ed.)

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