For my American readers (who aren’t also classic Doctor Who fans), there is a British candy called “Jelly Babies“. They’re kind of like gummy bears, but shaped like babies, and I think they’re kind of gross, but loads of people like them, and I’m just going to stop here before I get way off topic.
So this BBC article has revealed to me the dark goddamned past of the Jelly Baby, which, turns out, is a Victorian treat. Because anything that’s this sickly sweet AND this morbid must be Victorian.
In 1864, there was an Austrian confectioner working in Lancashire. He was asked to make a mold for candy shaped like bears, but the sweets he produced ended up looking more like human infants than bears.
So he decided to sell them as-is and call them “Unclaimed Babies“. In other words, children who have been abandoned, which was actually a real problem in the Victorian era.
“Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: A History Of Temptation, said although the name might sound ghastly to modern ears, sweet-eaters in the Victorian era would barely have batted an eyelid.
“‘Unclaimed babies were a part of life back then – people would leave them on church steps and it’s possible that people even found the name amusing,” he said.
“‘The sweets were sold loose and the jars they were in wouldn’t have been labelled [or] branded, so people would have said, ‘Can I have some of those jellied babies?’.
“‘It is an example of one the most down-to-earth, mass-produced sweets which came along in the 19th Century.'”
It wasn’t until 1953 that they were rebranded as Jelly Babies.