COLUMN: What would you do for a Clark Bar?

By Candace Nelson - 10:50 AM

Clark Bar

Here's my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail: If you’re a candy connoisseur like myself, you may be familiar with the following tasty combination candy bars:

- Chocolate, cookie and caramel (Twix)
- Chocolate and nougat (3 Musketeers)
- Chocolate, nougat and caramel (Milky Way)
- Chocolate, nougat, caramel and nuts (Snickers)
- Chocolate and peanut butter (Reese’s)
- Chocolate and crispy peanut butter (Butterfinger)

If you’re from the Pittsburgh area, though, that last one may have conjured up images of a different candy bar: the Clark Bar.

The Clark Bar consists of a crispy peanut butter core and is coated in milk chocolate. It was introduced in 1917 by the D.L. Clark Co. and manufactured in Pittsburgh.

“The Clark Bar ... was the first nationally marketed combination candy bar and its success induced numerous others to produce comparable products,” according to the “Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food” by Andrew Smith.

Six years after the debut of the Clark Bar, the Butterfinger burst onto the scene from Curtiss Candy Company. And 13 years after that, Luden’s created the 5th Avenue bar.

But it all started in 1886, when David L. Clark, an Irish immigrant, first began selling candies out of a horse-drawn wagon in Pittsburgh’s North Side, according to “Historic Pittsburgh” from the University of Pittsburgh’s Library System.

What started as a wagon-based business grew to a large factory, and by 1920, the company was producing nearly 150 different kinds of candy. The Clark Company quickly became known for its innovations in candy — including introducing mint, peanut butter and coconut to chocolate candies.

It was the Clark Bar that skyrocketed to fame and continues to be produced today, followed by the Zagnut Bar, which contains coconut.

The original, family owned business manufactured the candy until 1955, when it went through a series of corporate owners via sales and bankruptcies. In 1999, the well-known Massachusetts-based “New England Confectionery Company” (Necco) purchased the company. But, following Necco’s 2018 bankruptcy, Clark Bar production moved to Altoona-based Boyer Candy Company in western Pennsylvania.

With those changes came slight tweaks to the recipe. Boyer Candy Company, known for the Mallo Cup, began producing “Clark Cups” — taking the Clark Bar flavor and forming it into cups like its other products.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to find the original Clark Bar. But, it is still in production, according to the website.

“The iconic Clark Bar has been a Pittsburgh tradition since 1917. One bite will answer life’s three big questions: YES, we still make Clark Bars. YES, they are amazing. YES, they sell out often,” reads the website.

Now, when I see a Clark Bar, I gain a bit more pride for our region. Pittsburgh, affectionately referred to as the “Paris of Appalachia,” shares much of the same industrial history of West Virginia. And as a Yankee West Virginian who grew up north of the Mason-Dixon line, Pittsburgh is like a second home to me.

A home made of chocolate and peanut butter.

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