The wonderful thing about candy, particularly when each piece is individually wrapped, is that you can put it anywhere. You can fill jars, bowls, baskets, vases, bags, buckets, and piñatas with candy. Pretty much any vessel of any solid material will do.
The first documented "candy containers"—small molded-glass toys filled with candy pellets—were made for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, shaped like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. By the turn of the century, novelty glass candy containers were being churned out by dozens of U.S. glassworks, mostly located in Pennsylvania. The candy in these toys was held in place by metal caps or strips, or cardboard caps. The now-collectible pieces were originally intended for children, who would play with them long after the pellets were gone.
Boys were drawn to the containers such as the three-piece New York Central Train or Overland Limited, as well as the other vehicles like cars, buses, and trucks. Hollow glass guns were perfect for a game of "cowboys and Indians." Tanks, jeeps, ships, and airplanes let boys play military and war games. Girls tended to go for nursing bottles for their dolls, Flossie Fisher metal and glass doll-house furniture, as well as household toys like telephones, lanterns, rolling pins, irons, and toy dinnerware.
Glass candy containers also came in holiday themes or were shaped like popular comic-strip characters of the day. Others depicted animals and plants truer to nature. The earliest of these were designed by craftsmen, who would create a mold for each design, with each piece pressed or blown one at a time. When they had cooled, a woman at the glassworks would hand-paint them.
Glass toys went out of production during the Depression, between 1929 and 1939, and came back in full force during World War II. Even new automated factory assembly lines couldn't keep up with the popularity of these candy containers, and thousands were produced a day. Due to wartime metal shortages, the containers were closed with corks, wood stoppers, or waxed cardboard strips. In the '50s, glass containers were ditched in favor of plastics, a cheaper material. By the '70s, they went out of production all together.
The most prolific manufacturers of novelty candy containers were Westmoreland Glass, Jeannette Glass, Victory Glass, West Brothers Co., T. H. Stough, L. E. Smith, J. H. Millstein, and J. C. Crosetti Co. Originally sold at five-and-dimes and through catalogs like Sears Roebuck, such glass toys now can sell for anywhere from ten to several thousand dollars, depending on rarity. (Animal shapes tend to be common, while the more elaborate pre-1900 containers are the most sought after.)
Collectors have to be wary of modern reproductions, made in Taiwan without the closures or other metal parts. Many repros are made in colored glass like cobalt and pink. They mig...
The much more grown-up concept of confection or candy dishes probably had its start with the 18th-century European aristocracy, who liked to indulge in palate-cleansing desserts after their overly spiced meals. Known as sweetmeats, these desserts—usually preserved fruit, trifles, sundaes, or chocolate—would be served in individual ornate stemmed glasses, much like ice cream dishes. Smaller comfit glasses were employed to serve dry sweetmeats like chocolate, salted almonds, or cachous (breath mint lozenges).
Unlike comfit glasses, candy dishes—like their larger cousin, the console bowl—were placed on coffee tables, dining tables, and other furniture and filled with treats for everyone in the room to share. The top glassmakers of the 20th century, regardless whether they specialized in art glass or Depression glassware, made candy dishes in their popular patterns, whether that was cut glass, iridescent, or engraved. These include Lalique, Fenton, Fostoria, Waterford, Cambridge, Baccarat, Murano, Westmoreland, and Anchor Hocking.
Candy dishes similar to cookie jars were also made of ceramics, by the likes of Lefton, McCoy, Hull, and Reed and Barton, as well as in metals like sterling silver. In all materials, they were produced with and without handled covers.
One of the most common glass designs used as a candy dish is the "hen on nest" design. From 1880 to 1910, as many as 84 companies put out 174 variations on this concept. After that, 13 companies made hen-on-nest covered dishes in carnival glass.
Of the recent candy dishes, one of the most popular is the Chessie box, made by Fenton for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in 1970. The first of these covered candy dishes, which featured the railroad's beloved sleeping kitten, Chessie, were unmarked and made in amethyst carnival glass and only given to heads of state and friends of the railway.
Employees expressed interest in the candy dish, and so the railroad ordered more for Christmas gifts, and these were marked "December 1970 Chessie by Fenton." In 1977, Fenton got permission to produce the Chessie box for its regular line in different colors. That's when the mold number changed from #T9180 to #9840.