Thursday, April 9, 2020

Jacobs Candy, Home To The Nodding Easter Bunny in Danville Pa

For nearly 40 years, beginning in 1915 [or 1913?],  a two foot tall dark brown mechanical bunny stood in the window of the Jacobs Candy Store in Danville each Easter.   Powered by a spring mechanism, the bunny would nod his head when wound.

The  rabbit was manufactured in Germany, and was given to Grove Keefer.   Keefer gave the toy to Mr. Jacobs, owner of the confectionery, who displayed it in his store window each Easter.  Children would press their noses to the window to watch the mechanical toy, and could often be seen nodding in rhythm with the rabbit.

In 1938 the local newspaper reported that the beloved bunny was off "to the hospital for repairs to his clockwork that controls his movement.  Mr Jacobs  believed that the bunny would be rejuvenated after a dose of oil and some internal adjustments"  The bunny was able to fully recover, and return to his Easter duties in Jacobs store window that Easter season.  

1943 was the only year that the rabbit skipped his yearly appearance.  Sugar was being rationed for the war effort, and the store did not make candy Easter eggs that year.


The last mention I could find of the bunny was in 1952, but the Jacobs candy store was in business through 1961.   The contents of the business were sold in a public auction in 1962, but the rabbit was not listed in the advertisement.

John Jacobs was born in Germany in 1836.  When he was 19 years old, he came to America, first settling in Pottsville Pa, where he learned both the bakery and candy making trades.

In 1860 he established his own candy company on Mill street in Danville Pa.  

At one time he had two stores, an upper, and a lower store, both on Mill street.  The upper store , at 126 Mill street, closed around 1918

Jacobs made traditional clear Christmas candy toys each year.  The iron molds for the clear candy toys were cast at one of the Danville foundries, and the same molds were used for more than 50 years.  Their record was 35 tons of clear toy candy made in one season.

John Jr recalls that when he was 10 or 12 years old, ice cream was made by placing a mixture in a container filled with brine, and then the solution had to be paddled for 30 to 45 minutes.  It was a laborious task.  The store got their first ice cream machine around 1890.  It was water powered.

It was also around 1890 the the bakery and candy department of the store was remodeled, and 5 years later machinery was added for making the bread, which had been made completely by hand before 1895.  

 The Jacobs continued to make bread until the first world war.  When Italian workers came to Danville to install the trolley tracks between Danville and Bloomsburg, the store made a "special variety" of bread that they requested.

In 1901, three of John Jacobs sons took over the store, changing the name to John Jacob & Sons.  In 1949, the sons sold the store to Mr & Mrs Quigg, who ran it until 1960.   Mrs Esther Quigg was the daughter of George Jacobs, and the granddaughter  John Jacob senior.  In 1960, 100 years after Jacobs store had first opened,  it was announced that the business was being sold to Brown's catering, and that the new owners intended to add a dining and banquet room.  In 1962, Esther Quigg was still listed as the owner on the public sale bill.    The Jacobs Confectionery building was torn down  in 1973.

In a 1973 letter to the editor, Ralph McCracken described the store:

"The ice cream parlor at the front of the building had a gay ninety atmosphere that cannot be duplicated today.  It's tiny bent wire tables for four, with bent wire ice cream parlor chairs to match, it's stained-glass mirror back of the serving counter, the apothecary jars filled with licorice, teaberries, and other candies, and the smell of freshly basked pastries will be fondly remembered by the ladies who stopped for refreshment on their shopping trips downtown.

There are other font memories of Lucy Meintzer, who was the waitress there for twenty five years.   Lucy was always kind and cheerful and she was almost an institution herself, until she was killed in a tragic accident two years ago (1971).

Jacob vanilla ice cream was special too.  It was flavored by real vanilla beans, nothing artificial about it. "

I could not locate any photos of the famous bunny, nor of the store front, although I am certain some must exist! 
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  1. I'm a great great granddaughter of John Jacobs and this was a great treat to read! We had many family reunions in Danville though I don't ever remember going to the store. A niece sent this to us and we are sending the story to other members of the family. Thanks for making it possible! S J Sheckells


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