Jelly Beans, an American original
The great-great jelly bean ancestor first appeared in the 1800s, but jelly candies of one kind or another have been around for thousands of years. "Turkish delight, " a citrus, honey and rose water jell, has been putting smiles on kids' faces since biblical times.
When the penny candy craze came along in America during the late 1800's, candy makers began experimenting with sugar candies. The jelly candy inspired by Turkish delight was shaped into a bean and given a soft shell using a French process called "panning". The first jelly bean was created by an American candy maker whose name has since been lost in time.
Although the penny candy boom waned a bit when America fell in love with chocolate in the early 1900's, there was a real chocolate shortage when most chocolate went to overseas troops during World War II. So, patriotic Americans once again discovered their urge for non-chocolate sweet treats like common, candy store jelly beans.
In 1960 along came 19-year-old Herman Goelitz Rowland, Sr., fourth generation candy maker who planned to carry on the family candy business. The times were lean for his family's Oakland, Calif., business which was best known for making candy corn. In a leap of faith that boggles the mind today, Herm and his family decided to expand and begin making jelly beans, Chocolate Dutch Mints®, America's first gummi bears, and jells. Giant jelly beans, regular jelly beans, miniature jelly beans, all sorts of styles were pouring out of the candy factory. The extra touch that became a signature for the company were jelly beans with flavors cooked into the center and in the shells using the very best ingredients regardless of cost — simply terrific tasting jelly beans.
In 1967 some of those beans managed to catch the attention of the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Throughout his two terms in office, the Governor ate Herm's jelly beans and ultimately wrote that famous letter saying "we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans." (You can see a replica of the letter at the Jelly Belly Visitor Center).