Dr. George Washington Chase and the Chase Candy Company Beginnings
Dr. George Washington Chase was born in Whitingham, Vermont in 1835. He attended medical school in New York and came to St. Joseph in 1871 where he formed a partnership with Dr. C.D. Hendrickson. Chase joined Oliver A. Sandusky in the grocery business in 1875, then entered the produce business as the G.W. Chase Mercantile Co. In 1876, Chase’s fifteen year old son, Ernest Eli Chase, convinced him to sell candy at the Mercantile Co. They hired confectioneries to operate out of the second floor of their Market Square location. The candy quickly outpaced their other products and in 1885, the company erected a candy factory at 2nd and Felix Streets. Ernest joined his father’s business and it was renamed G.W. Chase & Son Mercantile Co.
A combination of confections, produce, and pharmaceuticals may seem odd, but the connection makes more sense than most may realize. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, candy was often utilized as a method to calm an upset stomach or a sore throat. Sugar was later used to coat bitter medicines to make them more palatable. Many doctors in the 1800’s converted to the confectionery business as the industry booms with advancements in machinery. In February 1890, the G.W. Chase & Son Mercantile Co. trademarked “Dr. Chase’s Electric Cough Lozenges.” Two months later, making use of their produce business, they trademarked “Electric” branded “condensed minced meat” a mixture of dried fruit, nuts, citrus peel, distilled spirits, spices, brown sugar and some sort of meat used in pie fillings. These trademarks can be found in the Buchanan County Trademark Register at the Recorder of Deeds Office.
By the 1920s, G.W. Chase & Son Mercantile Co. was producing over five hundred different types of candies. It was in 1918, however, that the Chase Candy Co. would create its most famous and longest lasting product. A cherry fondant core surrounded by chopped nuts and chocolate was originally known as the Cherry Chaser before gaining its current name, Cherry Mash. In 1924 they constructed a modern factory at 5th and Sylvanie Streets, employing hundreds and having an entire floor dedicated to chocolate production.
Sanders-Tutt, Jennifer. “Chase Candy Company.”
Clio: Your Guide to History. August 15, 2021.
Accessed January 25, 2023. https://theclio.com/tour/2000/11