How the Pretzel Survived Prohibition and Other Twisted Tales.

March 15, 2018, 7:30pm

Candace Perry 


The March meeting of the Goschenhoppen Historians will be treated to a light-hearted and factual presentation on the Pennsylvania German’s favorite snack food, the pretzel.  The always entertaining speaker is Candace Perry, Curator of the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, a native of Robisonia and as Dutch as shoo-fly pie and sauerkraut.


Long a staple in Eastern Europe, the pretzel was brought to America with the influx of southern German and Swiss German immigrants in the early 18th century.  In Many areas the pretzel had religious significance and even today it is often considered a Lenten staple as it can be made without fat and unleavened.  For centuries pretzels were made in a relatively soft form, although unlike today’s soft pretzels.  The hard pretzel, as we know it today, originated in the United States in the mid nineteenth century.  The Sturgis bakery in Lititz claims to have been the first commercial hard pretzel bakery, although there are those who claim otherwise.  Undoubtedly, dating to 1850, it is the oldest still in existence today.


Pretzel making, until well into the 20th century, was a laborious process.  Each pretzel had to be twisted into its iconic shape by hand.  In 1935 the Reading Pretzel machinery Company introduced the first automatic hard pretzel, twisting machine.  And in 1950, the American Machine and Foundry Company of NYC developed a pretzel-twisting machine that rolled and tied at a rate of fifty pretzels a minute, more than twice as fast as skilled hand twisters.


Of course, the Dutchman’s favorite beverage to accompany pretzels was very often beer, and therein lies the specter of Prohibition. Join us as Ms. Perry recounts an interesting tale.  The meeting will take place at 7:30 PM on Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Red Men’s Hall, the Goschenhoppen Historians headquarters, located at 116 Gravel Pike (Route 29), Green Lane, PA. There is no entry fee and the public is welcome to attend.  


In keeping with the topic of the evening, the usual Kumme Esse following Ms. Perry’s presentation will feature a variety of hard pretzels from different makers, including, if possible, Shuey’s, still handmade pretzels, sold only at their bakery in Lebanon.  This will allow lucky attendees to determine their favorite brand among several.  Ice cream, also long associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and Birch and Root Beers will help to wash down the pretzels. More information can be obtained at 215-234-4119.