Fluff History:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
History of Marshmallow Fluff
Part One
On May 14, 1920, a small article appeared in the Lynn, Massachusetts, Daily Evening Item announcing that two young men, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, both graduates of Swampscott High and veterans of the United States Infantry in World War I, had formed a partnership in the manufacture of Marshmallow Fluff. The actual date that they started working together is hard to pin down, because they had been making candies together before they started making Fluff. The company numbered two men in those days, and they started out cooking their confections in the kitchen at night and selling them door to door in the daytime.

H. Allen Durkee

Fred L. Mower

As Durkee wrote in 1930: "Ten years ago we started out with one barrel of sugar (at 28 cents per pound) a few tin cans: two spoons: one second hand Ford, and no customers, but plenty of prospects. Today (after a short span of only ten years) we have thru the fine cooperation of the wholesale grocers, the largest distribution of marshmallow cream in New England, and no Ford."

The origins of Marshmallow Fluff actually go back to 1917. Before WWI, a Somerville MA man named Archibald Query had been making it in his kitchen and selling it door to door, but wartime shortages had forced him to close down. By the time the war was over, Mr Query had other work and was uninterested in restarting his business, but he was willing to sell the formula. Durkee and Mower pooled their saving and bought it for five hundred dollars. Having just returned from France, they punningly renamed their product "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff" but "Toot Sweet" didn't stay on the label for long. The situation of "no customers, but plenty of prospects" didn't last long either. An early receipt still in the company's scrap books records the sale in April, 1920 of three one gallon cans to a vacation lodge in New Hampshire. The price at the time was $1.00 a gallon! The door to door trade gained a reputation among local housewives that eventually placed Fluff onto local grocers shelves. Retail trade spread from there to the point where in 1927 they were advertising prominently in Boston newspapers.

In 1929 they moved to a factory on Brookline Street in East Lynn, more than tripling their floor space to 10,000 square feet. At this point, they also hired four new employees, bringing their numbers to ten. They also merged with the Cream of Chocolate Company, makers of Rich's instant Sweet Milk Cocoa, and Durkee-Mower entered the Hot Chocolate business. Rich's Instant Sweet Milk Cocoa was too long a name for shoppers to be expected to remember easily, so in 1937 the name was shortened to simply Sweeco, and made more prominent on the label. The name and label change was backed up by a large newspaper advertising campaign, and the product's sales increased rapidly. Durkee-Mower continued to make Sweeco until 1962.

Durkee-Mower became a pioneer in radio advertising when in 1930 they began to sponsor the weekly "Flufferettes" radio show on the Yankee radio network, which included twenty-one stations broadcasting to all of New England. The fifteen minute show, aired on Sunday evenings just before Jack Benny, included live music and comedy skits, and served as a steppingstone to national recognition for a number of talented performers. The show continued through the late forties.

Some of the earliest Flufferettes shows included the Book-of-the-moment Dramas. In this series of thirteen short comic sketches, a fictional scholar with the proper Bostonian name of Lowell Cabot Boswell confronted some creatively rewritten moments in American history, from the Revolutionary War to the Harvard-Yale bicycle race. Each episode ended with a narrator reporting that Boswell had disappeared to continue work on his mysterious book, which was assumed to be a historical text of monumental importance. On the last episode

the Book-of-the-Moment was revealed. It was a collection of recipes for cakes, pies, candies, frostings and other confections that could be made with Marshmallow Fluff, appropriately entitled the Yummy Book. The book has been updated many times since then, and the most recent version is thirty-two pages long. It can be obtained by sending a request to the address on back of the Fluff label, with twenty five cents to help defray postage and handling costs.