The Original Peep

Reader Rainey writes:

For years I’ve wondered about the Peeps of my childhood in the 50s. I distinctly remember marshmallow chicks that were molded. They actually resembled chicks standing on legs. They were ever so much more attractive than the blobby current offerings. And they actually did get stale producing a wonderful crunchy crust. But it’s affirmation of the molded chicks I’m after and no one else o the bloggosphere seems to remember this.

Great comment, Rainey. Originally Peeps were made by the Rodda Candy Company, a family-owned confectionary operation out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Though their main expertise was in jelly beans, the Rodda Company also dabbled in marshmallow, making marshmallow eggs and chicks in the springtime. These weren’t actually molded, rather they were hand-fashioned by a small crew of German ladies armed with piping bags. They made each individual chick by hand, dusted them with colored sugar and dried them. Start-to-finish the process took over 25 hours.

In 1953 the Just Born company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, acquired the Rodda Candy Company. The owner, a Russian immigrant by the name of Sam Born, was intrigued by the little chicks and shortly developed a mechanized extrusion process that would allow him to produce them faster and in greater quantity. I don’t know how long it took to make a Peep in 1954, the year the new product was unveiled, but I do know that these days Peeps are piped, sugared, dried and boxed in about six minutes. Just Born makes something on the order of a billion every year, three quarters of which are sold at Easter.

I say “sold” because only about two thirds of them are actually eaten. Accord to the Just Born company, about a third are used as decorations, made into kitsch art, or put to some other use.

UPDATE: Reader John, who is now making peeps using the original Rodda molds, sends this photo along of his product:

98 thoughts on “The Original Peep”

  1. I remember the old peeps. We would let them sit in the pantry for a couple months so the crust would get crunchy and the insides would be tough and chewy. They were much better that way. We did the same thing with the skinny chocolate covered marshmallow bunnies.

    I tried it a few years ago, but the new ones stay soft…. bummer.

  2. The new peeps are much better for microwave experiments than for eating. Maybe Joe can cook up a recipe for us?

  3. I remember the “molded” peeps! But they weren’t marketed as PEEPS, and they were in a square box with compartments with white and yellow chicks and pink bunnies. I remember that the sugar was nice and crusty and the marshmallows were a bit chewy. They were completely different than actual Peeps and pretty hard to find. I always saved the white chicks for last. I loved those things!

    1. Oh! Vindication!!!

      The ones I remember were definitely molded as they had some degree of detail on the surface and bore the little telltale “seam” from where the 2 mold parts met. And, as you say, Ka, they were ever so much better in every respect. …not the least of which is that they lacked that vaguely obscene “blobby” quality of Peeps that makes viewing them as chicks more a matter of faith and stubborn determination than anything else.

      As Joe described the previous ownership I got the sense that the ones I remember must have been from another producer altogether, perhaps now defunct. And perhaps it was regional to the northeast as I’ve asked for years if anyone else remembered them and you’re the first ever!

      I never saw the packaging. Just the chicks and the crouching bunnies in my Easter baskets. But it just makes me feel a little excited in my senior years that someone else remembers them too. ;>

      1. Aha! So there were molded marshmallow chicks at that time, but they weren’t actually sold under the brand name Peeps. Very interesting. Thanks to you both!

        – Joe

      2. I am 66 years of age,and I certanly do remember the marshmallo chicks and rabbits of years ago,they were yellow and red and come 12 to a package.If memory serves me,they were put out by a chocolate manufacture out of Statten island island NY.

      3. Oh, Rainey, I have been searching and searching for vindication that my memory isn’t shot — that marshmallow peeps used to look like chicks and were made of real marshmallow, not “guar gum,” sugar and chemicals, and would actually get stale and chewey and luscious, given time. I remember the seam and the hand-painted features, and I wish I could find a photograph online. But let’s face it — folks back then didn’t waste film taking a picture of candy! Thanks so much. Oh, and Happy Easter!
        Bonny

      4. Dear Rainey…I remember them too. I definitely remember the “seams” running down the center. My favorite ones were the hens that were sitting on “nests” that looked like a woven basket….yes, there was that much detail! Each in its own little compartment in a square box, in the mid 1950s…I lived in Mississippi, and then in Missouri during that time period, so perhaps they were regional. They were so much better than the blobby Peeps that are all stuck together.

  4. Just saw this discussion. I had also searched for information on these molded marshmallows animals I remember from the 1950’s. I remember them as described by Rainey, complete with seams. I remember the chicks and bunnies and maybe even squirrels. I also remember the little cardboard boxes, but some little stores sold them individually, the best, already crunchy and chewy. So glad someone else remembers them too. Would love to see pictures but I haven’t been able to find any. The history of Peeps never mentions them.

  5. Yes, I remember molded Chick Peeps. They were heavier that the current ones available, and actually had a mold ridge we could see around the peep. I loved them. The last time I think I saw them was maybe the 1980’s in a variety store in Lexington, KY. I’ve never seen them since, but would love to be able to buy them, again.

    1. Start looking again, Donna. Peeps have gotten so kitschy-popular that some pastry shops are knocking them off with home-made versions. I wouldn’t rule out finding something quite similar to the originals!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  6. The original molded ones were made by the Tell Chocolate Company which went out of business a number of years ago, They had pink, yellow and white chicks and bunnies. They were not connected like Peeps are but were individual and had that seam. I used to order them by the case until the company went out of business. you used to be able to find refernces to them on the web by searching Marshmallow Chicks or Chickies (can’t remember, but even that link is gone). They were originally made in Brooklyn NY and the factory moved to Jersey and eventually shut down. Peeps just put them out of business and I really miss them.

  7. None of you are losing your memory. They were indeed manufactured by the Tell Corporation. They were not called Peeps as the ones we see everywhere. I believe they were called Marsmallow Chicks. They were in a square pink nine compartment box, translucent wrapping on top. You could find them in Woolworth’s and K-Mart’s for awhile and some independents. The Chicks were yellow, the Bunnies were White and the Squirrels were Pink. I adored them. 🙂 I am sad they don’t at least appear on a Wikipedia page for antiquity and nostalgia. Its very sad. Its like the Hydrox sandwich cookie and the Oreo that took over. Hydrox was better in my opinion. And so were these Chickies.

  8. I too am a huge fan of the Original “Easter Marshmallows” Chicks (they were called chicks in my home, though many people know them by the name chickies). Anyway, I am a second generation lover of these great Easter treats (I was born in 1960). My mother, who was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, has been eating them since (ready for this?) some time in the late 1930’s or very early 1940’s. My mother had a grade school classmate whose father worked for the original chickie maker, and that classmate’s father used to bring huge cartons full of chicks at Easter time for her class at St. Michaels to enjoy, way back then. Needless to say, my mother made sure that my brothers and sisters and I had lots of marshmallow chicks in our Easter baskets every year since we were born. By the way, it was the Groman Candy Co. who first made chicks back in the late 30’s, long before the Tell Chocolate Co. purchased them from the original maker back around 1952.

    I’ll make a long story short and tell you that I so missed chicks in my Easter basket each year after about 2005, that I reached out to the owner of Tell, who had retired from the business around 2003. Last year one of my brothers and I purchased the recipe and process for making chickies as well as the remaining original molds (chicks, rabbits and yes, squirrels). We have spent our spare weekend time working to validate the original taste and texture of these marshmallow chicks in our home kitchen. It is our hope to be able to make chickies again some day soon for all who long for that original “Easter Marshmallow” Chickie and for the next generation who have never known the pleasure.

    Please stay tuned…………..!

    PS: If someone knows of a way to post a picture to this blog, I’d like to provide you with a picture of an unopened package of those original Easter Marshmallows.

    John O’Neill

    1. Hi John! And very exciting news! Please let me know when you start production. In the meantime you can email me any picture you like and I’ll add it to this post. Just use the email link under the search button!

      – Joe

    2. My sister and I were just talking about them. The Chickies were much better tasting than the Just Born marshmallows. I thought they were made by the Tell Chocolate Company, and they came boxed with yellow peeps and white and pink bunnies. I would buy them in a heartbeat if they were available. Are you making them?

    3. Hi John!

      Thank your for commenting on this as I’ve been trying to hunt down anything related to the Groman Candy Company, but haven’t been able to find anything. My dad has been trying to find some information on what happened to the company since he was a kid when it was sold. It was started by his grandparents, Sam and Rose Groman in New York. I know he’d love to see some pictures of the molds and pick your brain a bit. If the powers that be could pass my email along to you, that would be great!

      1. Sarah,

        First, let me say I did not realize that this blog doesn’t work from top on down….I check it from time to time and always go to the bottom to look for new chat entries.

        Anyway, …..Wow….I would have hoped that you or Paul (chat just below yours) would have information for me.

        If Joe would exchange our email addresses, I would love to talk more about Chickies with you.

        I only have a couple of pieces of information on Groman that I got from the internet, such as building address and an article from the 30’s or 40’s.

        Joe – could you help Sarah and I exchange email addresses? Also, could you help Paul and I exchange email addresses? Thank you,

        John

    4. I am the direct descendant of Groman Candy Company and
      Arcady Confections on the west coast. I would love to chat any of you regarding what you are doing with the molds etc….and no I assure you I am not looking to re-start the business.

      1. Paul,

        Yes, I’d love to chat about Groman and Chickies.

        Joe – could you help Paul and I exchange email addresses? Thank you,

        John

    5. Dear John,
      I have been researching these Tell marshmallow chicks for a while, and this is the first referenceI have come across, as I was hoping to find someone like yourself who would start making the Tell marshmallow candies for Easter again. Are you into production yet?
      This was one of my most fond memories !
      Thanks! Donna

    6. I have been wondering for YEARS, and miss them TERRIBLY!!! Are you selling any?? Please let me know! TY

      1. I miss them TERRIBLY also! I crave the “old” peeps. I would love to find someone selling them!!

    7. John – My family has missed those marshmallow bunnies, chicks and squirrels so much. How soon will it be till we can get them from you? Are any for sale? Betty and family

  9. Mary,

    I make them in small batches in my own kitchen using the original molds, recipe, process. We don’t yet have any manufacturing equipment and facilities and so we’re not making them for sale…..yet.
    But I do make them as samples for family, friends and a couple of candy shops and for a couple of people I have met as a result of Chickies. I’m not sure if you feel comfortable providing an email address in this log, but I could keep you in mind to send some samples the next time I make a batch.

    1. John, do you want me to forward your email to Mary? That’s easily done, and all on the QT.

      Can I have some samples too? 😉

      – Joe

    2. You are right….the company who made the best Easter Marshmallows was TELL Chocolate Company ( they made chocolate coins as well as other chocolate treats for Easter, etc)
      They came in a pink box with compartments which held yellow chicks, pink squirrels and white rabbits. Sometimes they would mix up the color combinations. Their building was in Coney Island, Brooklyn. They made “real” marshmallow which contained egg whites which made the difference. They went out of business a fee years back……..I used to call the owner and she would mail me a carton of them because I moved to Florida and could not find them in my area.
      I wish they would have passed their recipe on to some other company. But, I guess the recipe might have been cost prohibitive. They also used to do pumpkins at Halloween. They were the best. PEEPS STINK.

  10. Joe,

    Sure….provide it to Mary.

    And yes, if you provide me with a mailing address, I’ll send som to you as well.

    Thank you,

    John

  11. John,
    After many years of trying to convince people that these marshmallows existed I stumbled onto you. Every year for Easter my mother would present me with a box of these wonderful marshmallows. The last box that I received was sitting on her grave the year she died addressed to me. An unexplained event in my life. Haven’t had any since though I’ve searched and searched. Now 65, I would love to have some again, please keep me in mind as you start your business. Did you ever receive a picture and if yes, could you email a copy. Also I would be willing to sample some of the marshmallows too. Will gladly pay for the opportunity to re-live part of my childhood and my mom. Thanks. ~Shirley

  12. Shirley,

    I’d love to send you some samples. Like I said, my brother and I are trying to get these back to the market, but the process involved in making them doesn’t lend well to a small kitchen-based internet start-up. Hopefully, some day !
    I’ll make a batch (my kids love them too) and send you some. If you can provide Joe Pastry with your email address, he can pass it to me. I’ll then reach out to you via email, for a mailing address. I’d like to hear your feedback on taste, texture, etc. Look forward to hearing from you – John.

    1. John, I would love to purchase your homemade chickies. Like you, I knew Carol R. Of TELL and she would mail me cartons of Easter Marshmallows every year. I live in Florida and couldn’t find them here. My brother and I have been looking for another company that might have bought the recipe.
      I hope to hear back from you…….I’m so excited to know someone has the recipe. Good luck with your venture. I will pray real hard for your success.
      Maureen Smith

  13. So glad I found you all, I too have been looking for the little molded marshmallow chicks for years. Would love to be added to John’s list to purchase samples and be notified when they are in productions. If you could forward my email also Joe I would be greatly appreciative. So excited, you give me hope….

    Thanks, Peggy

  14. Oh my gosh ~ this is what I was looking for! I would go to Woolworths every Easter to get those special marshmallow chicks. I have been searching for years. I would love to buy a few if you are making a batch!!! Please pass my email along. Thanks John and Joe!!

  15. Joe, tried your email address, but figured I’d try this as well. Did you send email addresses for Peggy and Kim? I have not received any.

  16. If anyone starts making these for sale, would you please, please contact me? Thanks! I have filled in my email address.

    1. Hi Debi,

      I’ll keep this short; I am trying to get a very limited quantity of Chickies produced for Easter 2015. I am not sure whether there is time at this point but I’m trying. I just picked up my rebuilt aerating mixer and need to learn how to use it, and am waiting on some of the original boxes to be preroduced. Its going to be close but just maybe I’ll have a few boxes for sale this year.

      Having said that, and if I am able to get them produced, I am likely going to make no more than 300 boxes for Easter and am trying to sell them thru 3 small candy stores – 2 in New Jersey and 1 in Connecticut.

      I can’t see your email address, but maybe Joe can pass it on to me and I’ll reach out to you directly.

      John O’Neill

      1. Hi Debi,
        Just wanted to update you. I have been running tests using my aerating mixer, but marshmallow consistency isn’t right. At this point I will switch gears and make what I can by hand mixer, and once Easter is over, will continue to get my aerating mixer working. With that said, I will only be able to make maybe 50 – 100 boxes by Easter.

  17. I actually found the photo a few years ago of the orginal marshmallow chicks and bunnies with the floppy hears pinned back. They were the consistency of cream, as one of you mentioned. The packaging was cardboard, as mentioned, and it collasped, as it was hinged. I totally agree, the peeps today are sugary and airy.
    A few years ago I was able to purchase them at a produce place in South Jersey, at 1.50 a piece, and oh so worth it! They have since been discontinuned. I was so dissappointed. Unfortunately I don’t recall the manufacturer.

  18. Dear John,
    I was so excited to read about you and your endeavor at recreating these awesome vintage candies! ….so much so, that I responded before reading the rest of the entries on the blog. Please let me know if you do produce any marshmallow candies, and have any for sale…whether through yourself or one of the candy shops you are mentioning. It would be so wonderful to be able to relive this special childhood memory ( yep, I am over 60!)

  19. Gm Judy and Donna,

    If you ask Joe to pass on your email addresses to me, I’ll tell you where you can find “Chickies” now. There are a very limited supply available. Joe, if you would be so kind as to help me get in touch with Judy and Donna, I would appreciate that. Thank you, John.

  20. I stopped at a candy store today on my way home from the mountains in PA with a friend who is about fifteen years younger than my 72 years. I asked the clerk if she knew where I could get the old fashioned marshmallow chickens and rabbits. Thinking that she would know what I was talking about as she was close to my age, she had no idea hat I was talking about. My friend thought I was dreaming and had no idea what I was talking about. On our three hour ride home I kept researching online to show her a picture to no avail. I remember my mom and I letting them get stale and then eating them much to our delight! I also remember putting them in my children’s baskets in the 70’s and they loved them as much as I did. I would love to taste them once again or to even see a picture of them. Please help me in any way you can to make this a possibility and remembrance of my childhood. Thank you, Elizabeth Koch

  21. Good Morning Joe,
    Would you be so kind as to provide my email address to Elizbeth, Judy,Debi,Kim,Peggy,Shirley,Donna if they request it.
    Thank you for any assistance.
    Sincerely
    John

  22. Please provide my email to John O’Neil as I am also interested in purchasing these tasty confections. A number of years ago our local convenience store had a box of the Marshmallow Chickens on the counter. As soon as I saw them I knew they were the ones I remembered from my childhood. I always knew peeps weren’t the ones in my Easter basket – I am 58. What I remember most is the crunchy sugar coating and how chewy they got when left out.

  23. Like the others, I’ve been looking for these for years. About three years ago, I ran across a few in Hildebrandts, and old-fashioned candy store on Long Island. But it was a one-time thing, and they don;t get them any more. I’d love to get some, please let me know if they’re available.

    1. John,

      Are you supplying Lucille’s with marshmallow chicks this year?

      Thank you,
      Judy Couldon

  24. John,

    I received my chicks today and they are spot on!!! Thanks for making someone’s Easter very special:)

    Kudos to you!

    Judy C.

  25. I would also love to get some of the marshmallow bunnies and chicks. I have been trying to find out if anyone still makes them. That would be a real treat for me the be able to buy them again.

  26. Just a heads up to all:

    I paid 22.00 for shipping for 5 boxes @ 1.99 each, from Lucille’s in NJ. It’s quite a distance from me, so I had no choice and I really wanted them.

    Judy C.

  27. Joe, I am 100% with you on chicks and bunnies! Oh how I would like to see the old style ones revived! I remember them, miss them, and every Easter had them for my son. We were fortunate, because long after they disappeared from most stores, I was able to get those old style chicks and bunnies from a local candy shop (which sadly closed a few years ago) that continued to carry them until their distributor stopped offering them!

    1. I have a feeling they’ll be back one day, Barbara!

      Cheers and have a terrific Easter!

      – Joe

  28. Reading these posts give me such joy! I only wish I happened upon it earlier so I could have ordered the treasured treats in time to surprise my family this Easter. They were such a fond part of my childhood and a favorite of my mother. I recall one spring , my brother and I pooled funds, purchased a box well in advance of the holiday and poked holes in the packaging so that the marshmallow treats would be perfectly hardened (the way Mom liked them) when we surpriaed her on Easter!

    Please, please keep me posted on further developments. I would love to experience the joy and share it with my children.

    1. Love that, Paula!

      I love people who are so passionate about Peeps that they even know their preferred degree of aging!

      Cheers and keep coming back. I have a feeling there’s a business starting up here!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  29. I left an email here awhile ago about the Tell Chocolate company and getting a case a year from Carol. I just searched Marshmallow Chickies as I do every year at this time as a personal way of remembering and missing my favorite candy. The idea that you got the molds and may be making some makes me so happy. I so want to know that somewhere they may still exist. If there is any way I could get some even if next year please let me know. I live in Baltimore and would drive pretty much anywhere in New Jersey or New York. Would preorder and pre pay. Yes I ‘m desperate and have hope for the first time in over a decade. My email is scullypa@ verizon.net. Now if I could only find a real lime rickie……thanks so much for at least keeping the memory alive. Tim

  30. Happy Easter one and all. Its great to be united with others over something good and innocent.
    Thanks for sharing memories and remembering things we thought would last forever.
    Tim Scully
    Baltimore

  31. Please tell me where I can purchase these original marshmallow chicks! They would make the perfect gift for my mother’s 80th birthday!

    1. Hi C Cain: Lucille’s in Barnegat NJ had some for Easter, but I believe they sold out quickly.
      But, as I’ve said above, if you (and others) would post your email address in the discussion text above (or ask if Joe would be so kind as to provide it to me) I will contact you and also tell you if and when more would be available later this year – John

  32. I followed a link about marshmallow chickens as I have fond memories of one sitting atop the jelly beans in my little purple and yellow Easter basket. I was taken aback to read they were from the 1950s. Was my memory getting fuzzy I wondered? I was a child in the ’40s and really thought I got those chicks for Easter. How relieved and delighted to know others remembered them from before 1953. Sure would love to eat one right now. If every the real type shows up again I plan to eat three at a time. Yellow is my favorite color.

  33. SO Joe pastry have u figured out how to make the peeps and if you can… can we buy some they are my favorite such great great childhood memories!!

  34. I miss those chicks and rabbits. Wish I could purchase them.
    Years ago sent a letter to an address on the box but never heard a word. Glad to know someone else misses them too. Great memory.

  35. Are you or do you know anyone making and selling the marshmallow chicks or bunnies? I would love to order some. I miss the original Rodda marshmallow treats.

    1. Hey Nancy, I do indeed. I don’t know if he is making any this year, but you can always give it a try. I’ll email you his address since he asked me not to post it.

      – Joe

  36. Rodda peeps were always around on Easter and I miss them. The new ones are not the same…and this comes from someone with a maiden name of Rodda!!! Wish the recipe had come down my family line!

  37. If the old fashioned Easter marshmallows are indeed available I would love to order some. I remember them from my childhood. I believe the last time I purchased some was at Woolworths in downtown Cleveland circa 1993.

  38. Please , let me know if these are being sold? I misses these chickies and so does my 85 year old mom!

  39. Please add me to the email list for marshmallow chick..I remember these from the 198o’s as a child and have searched and found this I’m so excited to see the pictures of them again…

  40. Hi, Joe!
    Would you please email me John’s address. I had written on this blog last year, but I think my request for a contact got lost in the shuffle. Easter is approaching, and those memories of the Tell Candy Company Easter marshmallow bunnies, chicks, etc. have surfaced again. I would love to be able to purchase some for my 88 year old Mom, and introduce them the younger generation! I am readtobefree@aol.com
    Thanks so much! Donna

    1. Hey Donna!

      I’ll send your address to John. I know he’s compiling a list for the day he gets the peep project going. Let’s hope it’s soon!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  41. Hi Joe – For anyone inquiring about whether “Easter Marshmallows” would be available this year, I’m still working to get my aerating mixer working properly. Without this piece of equipment, I am unable to move toward producing in quantities that might allow for a reasonable price. By hand, a box of 8 “chicks” takes 45 minutes to make – way too long. Fond memories of Easter’s past will have to keep us going for now. -John.

  42. So excited to hear the old fashioned marshmallow chicks could be available again. We affectionately called them Bun-chicks. So much tastier than Peeps. Please send my email to the maker. Thank you!

  43. I loved these peeps! They were so much better than the ones out today! I want them back.

    1. Hey P.A.! There’s nothing like homemade marshmallow, and you are so right: the store bought versions are like styrofoam these days. Very well done!

      – Joe

  44. I used to poke holes in the package and freeze them. I really wish someone would go back to making the original “peeps.”

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