Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14. So, I thought I would write about two types of sweeties this week: our moms and candy!

Mother’s Day has a large presence in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. A search for the term “Mother’s Day” raises 3,612 pages that mention this annual American commemoration of our moms.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

Mother’s Day is also an international holiday, celebrated in more than 40 nations. It is a century-old tradition in America. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official U.S. holiday, to be held annually on the second Sunday in May.

I hate to tell this to all the dads out there, but Father’s Day only raised 1,778 pages in the Davidson Archive. Perhaps this is because Father’s Day did not become an official federal holiday until 1972, or 58 years after Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is featured in a wide range of articles, editorials, essays and stories in the Davidson Archive. As you might imagine, many of the ads suggest places to dine so that Mom does not have to cook on her day. Of course, there are plenty of advertisements that suggest Mother’s Day gifts. Many of these ads promote candy for mom as a great gift.

William Davidson Digital Archive

I thought I would further explore candy for mom — assuming mom doesn’t want something less calorie-intensive. In fact, one of the earliest Mother’s Day advertisements for candy is in the May 9, 1919, Detroit Jewish Chronicle. Along with some very nice artwork, the ad urges readers to “Remember Your Mother with MacDiarmid’s Candies,” only “80 cents the pound at Six Stores in Detroit.”

One of my favorite ads is for Barton’s, a Jewish-owned national chain of candy stores, in the May 11, 1956, issue of the JN. At time of publication, there were three Barton’s stores in Detroit. This ad features a photo of a young lad with a big chocolate smile. He is quoted: “Gosh! I’ll have to get Mom another box of Barton’s Bonbonniere Mother’s Day chocolates.” The image leaves no doubt as to what happened to the first box.

In Detroit, there is the one and only Sanders. Well known for its ice cream toppings and its hot fudge sundaes … and cream puff sundaes … and ice cream sodas … and, oh my, bumpy cakes … Sanders also makes candy. The legend of Sanders began when Frederick Sanders Schmitt moved to Detroit in 1875 and opened a store on Woodward Avenue to sell ice cream and baked goods.

The historic pages of the JN hold many Sanders ads, but I also found a couple of related stories. In 1983, for example, there was a most important, long-awaited report in the JN: “Sanders Ice Cream, Toppings Now Kosher” (July 29, 1983). About time! The article featured a photo of Jack Sanders and Rabbi Jack Goldman preparing kosher sundaes for anxious Jewish children.

William Davidson Digital Archive

More recently, JN writer Ronelle Grier wrote a warm story about the family of the late Sylvia Kent Thomas. On Thomas’ birthday, her extended family in the United States and Israel began a tradition of spooning into Sanders sundaes in her honor (May 16, 2013).

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! May your candy boxes never be empty.

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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