Peeps Genesis – Makings of a Marshmallow Invasion
If any of you followed me around Halloween, you probably know that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s really hard to refuse candy, especially when it comes to Candy Corn (click here to read all about it).
Well, I decided to make a two-parter out of that post, because it’s not just Candy Corn that I love. It’s holiday candies in general. Something about seeing it packed on the store shelves makes me giddy. Maybe it’s all those fun shapes and pretty colors, because I have somewhat of a short attention span at the supermarket. Who doesn’t, right?
Easter is an exceptionally festive time at the grocery store. After a hard winter (and I think we all had one this year), all those pastel pink, yellow, and green wrappers are a sight for sore eyes. So are all the chocolate bunnies, rainbow jelly beans, and brightly-speckled Robin’s Eggs.
You know what makes eyes even sorer though? Peeps. Those mangy Marshmallow creatures that swallow up every candy aisle at Easter. Even through my deep love of all things holiday, Peeps have managed a place on my hate list.
It wasn’t so when I was a kid. My youngest brother and I used to tear through them by the box. We got major kicks out of expanding them to dangerous sizes in the microwave (oddly, they never blew up. More on that later). That might be why I don’t like them now. Things I can’t control make me suspicious.
And Peeps are one thing I think we’ve all lost control over. They’ve become nothing short of a full-scale invasion at Easter time. Peeps by the thousands parachute into every single grocery store. They bombard every Easter party, and they pile up in Easter baskets. They also come in a plethora of bizarre flavors that leave me scratching my head at the mere thought of consuming them (see a list of these strange encounters below).
Just like Candy Corn, Peeps seem to be a love it or hate it kind of thing. Since I explored team love over Halloween, I thought Easter could explore team… well, suspicious, at the very least. I decided to learn where the hell all these Peeps came from. Maybe if we identify the source, we can eradicate the problem. Here is the run down on how we got stuck with the annual army of marshmallow creatures.
Peeps cracked out of their egg shells thanks to a Russian candy maker named Sam Born. He didn’t invent them, but it’s his fault they spread across the globe.
Born immigrated to the United States in 1910, and he dove head first into the candy business. He came from a family line of chocolatiers, and according to many sources, he had a major talent for all things sweet. By 1916, he had become an innovator in candy-making. His claim to fame was a machine that inserted sticks into lollipops, eliminating the sticky mess of doing it by hand. He also found ways to simplify sprinkle-making and solidify the chocolate coating on Eskimo pies.
By 1923, Born had his own candy store in Brooklyn called “Just Born.” It wasn’t just a clever twist of his name, but also a nod to the fact that he turned out fresh sweets every morning. Although the name reeks of candies shaped like animals, Born’s inventory didn’t include Peeps back then. He found a bigger specialty in ingratiating French delicacies into the American pallet.
However, the crash of 1929 brought some hard times, even to candy-maker extraordinaire, Mr. Born. By then, he had expanded his empire through the acquisition of other companies. To save on funds, he relocated his many operations to an empty print factory in Pennsylvania. In a delicious irony, said factory was located in Bethlehem, which heralds to another “just born” type of holiday. All puns aside though, Born did very well in Pennsylvania. In fact, he did so well that in 1953, he acquired yet another candy factory called Rodda Candy Company.
What did Rodda make, you may ask? Well, a lot of things. Their biggest draw was religious-shaped candies during the holidays. They also had some primo jelly bean technology, which drew Born’s interest and bank account in the first place. Yet, when he toured his new sweet shop acquisition, Born and his cohorts found something interesting in a back room. Dozens of women hard at work making delightful little marshmallow candy-chicks.
The records don’t clearly show when the first Peep hatched at Rodda Candy Company. Some speculate it was sometime in the 1920s, but the company’s vintage catalogue from 1925 has no evidence of them. Some Rodda family members say the first marshmallow chicks were made on special order for a very loyal customer, sometime in the 1940s.
Whatever the origin, the marshmallow chicks (not yet called Peeps –it’s unclear when that title officially stuck) played a regular part in the Rodda routine when Sam Born entered the picture. It was an exhausting routine too, taking up to eighty people. Workers hand-piped the chicks through a pastry bag, one at a time, with sticky marshmallow. Also by hand, they carefully added swirling little marshmallow wings sweeping up behind their backs, the signature Rodda Chick stamp. Afterward, makers waited for almost thirty hours while the marshmallow candies cooled. Then, they added color and painted on eyes. Those Marshmallow Chicks were such an ordeal that Rodda only released them for a limited time during Easter.
As soon as he laid eyes on those chicks, Sam Born realized he had stumbled on something interesting. He quickly lost focus on jelly beans and instead piped his efforts into the marshmallow treats. He wanted to make them year-round, but what to do about that painstaking production process?
Well, when anything gets to be too monotonous, out come the machines. By 1954, Sam Born’s brother, Bob, had taken a hand in Just Born candy company. Like his brother, he had a fondness for machines that could simplify the tedious job of candy-making. And he soon invented a fantastic one for the Peeps. With his own hands, Bob invented and built “the Depositor,” a machine that cranked out six rows of five Peeps at once. Once he perfected it, “the Depositor” cut down Peep production time just a tad. Making a tray of them went from a thirty-hour process to a simple six minutes. Just Born could now meet the marshmallow needs of the country, and they could do it all year round. Soon, Just Born became the largest marshmallow confectioner in the world.
They brought additional Peep changes in the 1960s to speed up production even more, including clipping their cute, signature little wings. Because Peeps don’t need to fly. They just need to get through those machines as fast as possible and right into some unwitting person’s Easter basket. They also got some new colors makeovers, such as pink and white. Just Born decided to give the birds some partners in crime too, so they tossed some bunnies into the marshmallow candy jungle.
Slowly but surely, marshmallow Peeps began their takeover of Earth… I mean, Easter (no, I mean Earth). More and more appeared on the shelves. Millions at a time came off the factory lines. Other holidays got their own shapes too, like pumpkins for Halloween and hearts for Valentine’s Day. By the 1990s, more new colors, like blue and lavender, got introduced. Just Born also rolled out some new flavors – vanilla and chocolate. Actual Peep cults started to pop up. People began making Easter garlands and dessert artworks out of the signature spring candies.
It was all good and fine for the Peep lovers, but in quiet corners of the scientific world, concern began to mount. They, and those of us in “camp hate,” didn’t see a delightful little candy. They saw an enemy sweeping the globe with no end in sight. Peeps had become an invasive force, and if something wasn’t done, we would all drown in their marshmallow madness. In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University banded together to do something about that. They wanted to destroy the Peeps.
Let me tell you, they tried everything. They dipped colorful marshmallow chicks and bunnies into boiling water. They put them in microwaves and blew them up to incredible sizes, but damn it, they never burst. They coated them with liquid nitrogen, and they tossed them in vats of boiling acid. After weeks of torture, er… experiments, they released their horrifying conclusion. The Peeps were indestructible. They could not die. The marshmallow invasion would have no end. You might think I’m making this up, and in that case, I invite you to click here for the very Peepy truth.
So, where does that leave us? Well, most people have decided that if they can’t beat them, join them. 2004 saw the first contest for Peep dioramas. Artists the world over used Peeps as arty cannon fodder, and it’s been a sensation ever since. In 2009, retail stores that only sold Peeps entered the market. Just Born put fuel to the fire and released peep-inspired lip balm and other accessories such as bracelets, umbrellas, and the new favorite, plush toys. Some Peep-fanatics have even designed clothes made entirely of Peeps.
I suppose that’s one way to handle it. As for me, I haven’t been able to get on board. Peeps all taste the same to me, and they feel like sandpaper in your mouth. So instead of eating, I’ve hunkered down and let the Peep fanatics have their fun. I’ve also made great sport in hunting for bizarre flavors every year. They just keep getting weirder, so I don’t think I’ll get bored anytime soon.
For those of you who do like the little marshmallow creatures that could, I wish you a very peep-filled and pleasant Easter and Spring! To the rest of us, well, there’s always chocolate bunnies. And jelly beans! Don’t forget the jelly beans.
USA Today – “6 Things You Didn’t Know About Marshmallow Peeps”
Good Housekeeping – “The Peeps Chick is Turning 60!”
Food & Wine – “the History of Peeps”
Preposterous Peep flavors! I’ve only tried a few, but maybe you are braver than me. Let us know what Peep adventures you’ve had in the comments below.
Orange/Lemon Sherbert Peeps
Blue Raspberry Delight Peeps
Sour Watermelon Peeps
Sour Cherry Peeps
Pancakes and Syrup Peeps
Rootbeer Float Peeps
Cotton Candy Peeps
Birthday/Party Cake Peeps
Candy Cane Peeps (at Christmas Time)
Vanilla Crème Peeps
Mystery Peeps (Sounds dangerous)
Fruit Punch Peeps
I never heard of these Peeps and will have to try one one of these days! Thanks for an interesting and funny post.
Don’t worry, I’m sure Peeps will find you soon enough! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you like them if you give them a try 🙂
An epic history of peeps, MB!
Thanks, Dave! May we all be safe from the peep invasion this spring haha! 🙂
Didn’t have a clue that there were so many different flavors of Peeps. Didn’t care for them as a kid and I don’t think I’ll try them now. Jelly beans for me, please. 😊
Yes! All of the Jelly Beans, all of the time 🙂
For an admitted “hater” you give a great history. While I love them I once used the seasonal nature of the marshmallow treats to limit my intake. Alas, you are right. The world is awash with addictive Peeps. My sweet tooth is overwhelmed!
Glad you enjoyed it! It’s so funny I did really like them as a kid. I think I just can’t tolerate sweets as well I used to, and Peeps are taking the brunt of my frustrations with that lol 🙂
I have a hard time imagining why anyone would want Peeps when there are Cadbury Creme Eggs out at the same time!
YES!!! Can we please talk about that?! 🙂
And every year I despair how they seem to get smaller yet the price goes up!
YESSSSS. Let’s talk about that too! 🙁 I’m a bit of a purist and like the creme ones the best, but those caramel ones are pretty good too.
Caramel will always be second fiddle to the creme 😋
Ah, the memories: in seminary one Lent some of us gathered to do Peep Religious Dioramas: Our Peep of Guadeloupe, Peep Descent into Hell, etc. 😁
Nice!! I wish I could have seen that lol 🙂
They were a scream!
LOL! I bet they were!
My mom and my grandpa looked forward to *stale* Peeps every Easter. For years I bought them the minute they became available, slit the plastic wrapper, and stored them on top of the fridge until Easter so they’d get good and hard. I never understood.
Wow that’s dedication on your part. I can’t even imagine stale peeps. I wonder if they were going for the Lucky Charms marshmallow kind of flavor! 🙂
I learn so much here 🐥 I never cared for them but they are interesting. 🙂
Yay! So glad you learned something new 🙂 I had to admit it was a pretty fun story to dive into, even if I don’t care much to eat them!
Hilarious! I did like them as a kid (just about any candy would do). Now I can’t abide the idea of them at all. Jelly beans. Yea!! I seem to have an inordinate fondness for fruity candy like Starburst and Mike and Ike’s.
Ooooh I love Mike & Ike’s. Good choice! 🙂 Starburst are pretty dang good too, aren’t they? 🙂
As a kid I loved all things marshmallow, but when I try to visualize the number of artificial ingredients and colors used to make up this multi-hued creatures now, I shudder. I pass them in the store without the slightest temptation.
That’s a good point, I didn’t even think about all the artificial junk that probably goes in there 🙂 I agree, I haven’t been much tempted by any peeps, especially some of the flavors they’re coming out with!
Soooo interesting. I enjoyed this history. I used to put a few peeps in the kids baskets years ago, but transitioned to only a few good chocolates with books, etc. Great post!🐰🌸
BOOKS!!!! I would have LOVED books in my Easter basket! 🙂 Well done!
I had to double-check your posting date, because, as far as I am aware, Peeps have been unable to swim across the Pond.
I hope it stays that way for your sake! 🙂
Peeps never got to the motherland here in the UK either. Quite happy about that!
Ooooh that is lucky 🙂 Don’t speak too loudly though, they might hear you and come crawling over the pond!
They look so photogenic though, so I wouldn’t mind them, I have not got a sweet tooth so would be safe with a herd of them.
You know, I did have fun taking these pictures. Although they left a dreadful amount of sugar on our dining table! 🙂
And in your tummies I should think 🙂
Would you believe I didn’t even one of them??? I must be crazy or something. But then again, I REALLY don’t like them hahaha. Now, when I did all the pics for the Candy Corn post, I definitely indulged. A lot. 🙂
Sounds like some people at Emory had a lot of fun.
I gotta be honest when I saw the title of this I expected you to be a big fan of these little deformed marshmallow birds. Glad to see I was wrong.
Also kind of sad to hear they didn’t use to look like melting/spineless creatures but instead had pretty wings. Maybe I would like them more if they still looked like that. No, on second thought I think being prettier wouldn’t really help.
LOL 🙂 You know the vintage ones are pretty cute. I found a lot of pictures on the Google machine! But I agree, I’m not sure looking prettier could help much in this case 🙂
Thank you for the history lesson on Peeps! My grandchildren are equally divided, I think, on liking them. I can take them or leave them and my husband doesn’t like them.
You are most welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it! A house divided, huh? Well, as long as both camps manage a Happy Easter, it’s all good! 🙂
Wow! Wonderful post. Sadly, I do not know about these peeps. Maybe they have a different name in our country. I’ll ask google.
Careful. If you go looking for them, they just might come looking for you! 🙂
My boys always liked the peeps at Easter, but for me I will take Hershey’s chocolate any day!
Yeah Hershey’s! 🙂
Very informative article. Glad I took a peep at it! I am a peep lover! I have been since childhood. This year I tried the birthday cake flavor..meh…I still like the plain yellow peeps the best. Thanks for sharing! If they come up with a one eyed one horned peep we’ll eat er! BWAHAHA!
Well done with the pun.
I also hate peeps, thank you that is all 🙂
LOL! Enough said! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
What a fun post! I only heard of peeps through my international friends. I don’t think they’re much of a thing here in NL. And I agree, those sugar coated marshmallows all taste the same.
We always get chocolate eggs around (read: way before, lol) Easter. And merengue. Yum! But I only treat myself to heavy doses of merengue around Christmas, haha.
But yes, holiday candy (and the commerce around it) is fascinating!
I’m glad you enjoyed it! And I’m glad the peeps haven’t gone international yet. We will do our best to contain the outbreak! 🙂 And oh my a good merengue is hard to beat.
Hehehe! I don’t think they’ve crossed the Channel yet. And with Brexit pending, it will be a a lot harder to spread 😀
LOL! Good point!!
“I think that’s why I don’t like them now. I’m very suspicious of things that I can’t control.” Ha ha! But levity aside: This post is proof that you can make ANYTHING interesting, M.B. Gosh, how I admire both your natural curiosity and your research skills! Plus, you’re such an engaging writer that I always read your posts until the bitter end (in which the world is taken over by dioramas of indestructible Peeps — now, why didn’t the apostle Paul mention THAT in his prophecies about the Apocalypse?). Well … what can I say, except for thank you.
LOL We must always have a sense of humor – even about things that bring us down! I am always so glad to hear how much you enjoy the writing, your compliments always make my day! So THANK YOU. And I’m sure when those four horsemen make their way here, at least one of them will be riding a giant peep.
Ha! I’m cracking up at the visual of one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse riding in on a Peep. Excellent choice, since you’ve already proven they’re indestructible. [Grinning from ear to ear over here.]
But it has to be one of the cute vintage peeps with wings. 🙂
Oh my yes! Though … I wonder if those were as indestructible as their chemistry-experiment modern cousins? Hmmm.
Good point – I hope it’s the plague horse riding the peep. If it has a weakness, we can take him down!
Exactly! (Great minds think alike. … If great minds think about a Peep-based Apocalypse, that is! Ha ha.)
I’ve never had Peeps – I think they must be typically American. Enjoy.
I can assure you, you aren’t missing much! 🙂 Although they are fun to blow up to big sizes in the microwave.
Fabulous! Now I’m slightly concerned that the Peeps might find me…
Be afraid. Be VERY very afraid! And shield yourself with chocolate bunnies.
This is fascinating history, and I mean it. I don’t think I’ve ever tried Peeps, because they don’t appeal to me – not chocolaty enough – but learning this background was truly interesting.
Also: Your essay inspired me to look up Peeps In Microwave videos, including this amusing gem:
The laughs this video brought me are truly priceless. Thanks for sharing it!! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the peepy post!
I have just been introduced to your blog and loved this. It occurs to me that I am completely Peep-agnostic. They make my life neither better nor worse. In fact I always felt a little bad about not not liking them more. I feel better now.
Peep agnostic is a very good way to be – especially around Easter when they are everywhere! 🙂 I am so happy you like the blog! 🙂
I attended an April Fools Day luncheon this year where the hostess made a centerpiece of a big King Kong in the midst of dozens of colorful bunny peeps, ripping them them limb from limb…..a little grisly but funny!
LOL! That’s amazing. People do get very creative with Peeps, we can give them that!
all is lost!
there is no
stopping them 🙂
I know!!! Send help!! 🙂
Peeps are the worst but they’re great in a pinch for s’mores. Thanks for the post!
Peep s’mores! You might be onto something there…! 🙂 So glad you gave it a read and enjoyed it
Absolutely! Loved your story. And yes – give it a whirl with the strawberry ones. 🙂
This post is awesome and hilarious. This line made me laugh:
And if there’s one thing we’ve lost control over, it’s Peeps.” And, oh my word! I had no idea there were so many different flavors of peeps. Great job, Friend.
So glad you enjoyed it and it gave you a laugh! 🙂 And totally agree, the Peep flavors just keep getting weirder!
Peeps???? Never heard of them – I don’t think we get them over here in the UK, so there’s always the option of escaping over here next year. What we do have is 1000’s of chocolate eggs – and wine! Because as everyone knows, after delivering millions of eggs, the Easter bunny likes nothing to better that to kick back and enjoy a glass or three.
I would take wine over peeps. Send me all the wine!! And the jelly beans too! 🙂
Many pretty colors and flavors to enjoy. I should try it! Thanks for the story . 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 If you try them, I wouldn’t recommend starting with the Pancakes and Syrup. That just sounds gross! 🙂
Thanks! I normally try not to limit eating sweets. 🙂
Love marshmallows particularly smores made with Nutella. Peeps not so much.
Well, s’mores are a whole different ball game! And so is Nutella, for that matter 🙂
Fun, but gimme chocolate and gimme now! ;>)
Agreed!!!! And not just at Easter. Give me all the chocolate all the time.
That is a lot of peep information …. to share with all your peeps! Fun 🙂
Well done with the pun! 🙂
When my youngest son was maybe four, he was looking at a bird poop splash on the car window and asked what bird pee looked like. I explained that birds get rid of waste in just the one form and he said, “Oh, it’s peep.” It happened to be around Easter time. And we’ve called it that ever since. Obviously, I am on team peep-hater. But they are pretty cute.
LOLOL!!!! 🙂 That is an excellent story.
I will eat almost any holiday candy apart from Peeps!! Loved your research into the unkillable Peeps. Lindt bunnies all the way for me. 🐇🐇🐇
Couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it
I was so enthralled with this article, I didn’t utter a peep. Fun posting.
LOL! Well done!! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it.
Interesting history! Never liked peeps though, and I too have a sweet tooth. Hope you had a nice Easter 🐣
They’re just so chalky! Hahaha. And it’s crazy how many bizarre flavors there are now. Glad you enjoyed the post!
Wow! Who knew those fun marshmallow ‘toys’ sitting on top of my great grandmothers fridge had such a lively history?
Right? 🙂 I must admit as much as I hate peeps, I really did enjoy learning the back story (although I still won’t be eating any anytime soon hahaha)
Hahahaha! I had nooooo idea these were invented by someone of Russian decent. Good for him. They still sell em by the MILLIONS. I wonder what the shelf life is on this stuff?? Do you think some of them u see on the shelves are really 10 YO? Lol. I’ll have to google the clothing, I’m kind of disturbed by the thought.This post is most awesome…I’m moving along to the candy corns which I LOVE.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t expire at all. I mean… they’re made of not real things. They HAVE to be! Nothing real can survive boiling acid the way peeps can… it ain’t right! Hope you enjoy the candy corn! Sounds like we have really similar candy tastes.
How do you feel about PEZ? Did you do a story on this as well?
PEZ!!! I love them. I haven’t done a write-up but I’m going to add it to my list for future articles. 🙂
I cannot WAIT! 😀
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