Chocolate Easter Bunnies

Easter Whitmans ad illustration Easter Bunnies

Vintage ad Whitman’s Sampler for Easter 1951

For some, Easter is all about the candy

Candy manufacturers have all hopped on the Easter candy bandwagon by painting some pastel colors on their usual year round candy. From Reese’s Pieces Pastel Easter Egg Candy or Whopper’s Robin Eggs, regular every day candy decked out in holiday hues just doesn’t count as real Easter candy.

You can call it M&M’s bunny mix in pastel colors but it’s the same M&Ms you get in your trick or treat bag.

In fact Easter ranks second only to Halloween in candy sales. Which may explain the perfect amalgam of the 2 holidays sold by candy manufacturer Brach. Their Pastel Candy Corn is the familiar old Halloween candy in soft hues.

For purists there is a difference between Easter–themed candy and Easter candy.

For some Easter can only mean Peeps.

But for others it’s just not Easter without a classic hollow chocolate bunny.

And as a mid-century suburban Jew, it was just not Passover without a chocolate bunny too.

A Bunny at My Seder

In this great American melting pot, it seemed perfectly acceptable to bring me an Easter bunny at Passover time.

En route to my suburban Long Island Seder, my NYC Great Aunts would stop at the W.T. Grants store on the Upper East Side where they would procure several RM Palmer hollow chocolate bunnies for all the children.

As a child, nibbling the chocolate ears of the RM Palmer bunny was as much a holiday ritual as asking the four questions.

Hallowed Hollow Chocolate Bunnies

vintage illustration Easter chocolate bunnies factory

Inside the RM Palmer Chocolate Factory, decorating the chocolate Easter bunnies. Illustrator Stevan Dohanos 1950

Though not the originator of hollow chocolate bunnies, RM Palmer is widely recognized for making more hollow chocolate bunnies than any in the world.

Hollow molds had entered the picture by 1939 when newspaper ads mention “hollow chocolate rabbits for 5 cents.”

The hollow center was developed for 2 reasons: first the treats were less expensive to produce and second the candy was easier for children to eat, since biting into a large solid chocolate bunny.might fill them to the brim.

During WWII the manufacturing of all chocolate novelties was temporarily halted by the War Production Board, so that the cocoa rations could be put to use for “staple civilian and military purposes such as breakfast cocoa and candy bars.”

At the end of the war, Richard M. Palmer Sr,  like so many returning soldiers, wanted a part of the American Dream. His would be covered in chocolate.

Candy Factory

vintage illustration chocolate Easter bunnies factory workers

Illustrator Stevan Dohanos cover for The Saturday Evening Post March 25, 1950. Inside the Penn.chocolate factory

In 1948 with an initial investment of $25,000, Richard Palmer purchased used equipment and rented an old warehouse in Sinking Spring Penn. where the company was formed.

With only 4 employees and 4 products that included Baby Binks, Bunny Binks, Daddy Binks and Hen and Egg, Palmer approached W.T. Grants Company 25 cent store. They immediately fell in love with Baby Binks and agreed to a trial display during the month of November.

The response was so positive that the retailer ordered $20,000 worth of the bunnies for Easter which helped the candy company get off the ground. In 1950 they relocated to Reading Penn. to make room for more employees and production equipment

The Saturday Evening Post immortalized the new factory on their March 25 1950 cover, seen above.

Illustrator Stevan Dohanos set up his easel in the Reading Penn. chocolate novelty company and for 3 days he painted bunnies as they marched past him in the general direction of Easter Sunday.

Note the steel molds in the illustration: one side is filled with molten chocolate, then they are closed and revolved while cooling, the whirling motion making the rabbits turn out hollow on the inside. Since their debut most of the bows and icing decorations have been made by hand.


© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014.

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