by Don Chamberlain
Fern Brand Chocolates was founded in 1900 in Burlington, Iowa by E.T. Gardner and E.C. Gould. They moved into their new building at the corner of Elm and South Third Street. The building was enlarged in 1910 and by 1931 they were on the corner with the two buildings to the north demolished. They produced a wide variety of candy products. Fern Brand ceased operation in July of 1955 and the business was bought by Fresh Pack Candy of Moline, Illinois in 1957.
According to Ray and Verda Asbury, former Burlington residents, and Fern Brand Chocolates researchers, the plates were given to merchants as a token of appreciation for promoting their chocolates. They were packed in large wooden crates of bulk chocolates. There was one plate included per crate.
This is the only advertising piece that has ferns as a part of the decoration, so the mold was obviously made for the Fern Brand Chocolates piece.
The Fern Brand advertising pieces were made by the Northwood company and have the typical basketweave back and are marked with the circle N mark. It is the only advertising piece that features ferns rather than the usually seen mums pattern. They are available in flat, single handgrip, and double handgrip plates, all about six inches in diameter. No bowls are known to exist at this time. Colors include amethyst and a very few lavender.
This is the Gardner and Gould building (the manufacturer of Fern Brand Chocolates) which was taken in 2017. You can still make out the firm’s name on the building.
We recently made a trip to Burlington, Iowa, and located the building where the Fern Brand Chocolates were made. Some photos are attached, and you can still see the Gardner and Gould names on the front, and some of the name Fern Brands on the side of the building. The building is currently for sale and closed, so we were unable to go inside as I had hoped.
A visit to a Burlington antique store provided us with a piece from a Fern Brands wooden box, and is penciled 3 1/4 #, presumably indicating the weight of the candy in the box. While visiting with the store. owner, she stated that Fern Brands memorabilia is in high demand in the area and sells quickly. She mentioned seeing a heart-shaped candy box with a spoon attached, and also a Fern Brand Chocolates sterling silver spoon. More trips to that area might just be in our future!