After some research, it was found that the Franco-to-Frango story was wrong. Frederick and Nelson had trademarked its candy as “Frango Mints” on June 1, 1918. It is said that name was an portmanteau for FRederick And Nelson GOodness. Generations of Field’s employees had been unknowingly passing down this false tale.
So unless someone comes up with an old box or advertisement for “Franco” Mints, another urban legend has been debunked.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
Note: Originally, the Frango was the name for a frozen dessert sold at the sophisticated Tea Room at Frederick & Nelson's department store, at Sixth Avenue and Pine Street in Seattle, Washington. The first Frango frozen dessert was available in maple and orange flavors.
In 1926, the consistency of the Frango Dessert was described as flaky, requiring the use of a fork, not a spoon as you would use with ice cream. The Frango name eventually was extended to ice-cream sodas, pies and milkshakes sold at the store. It wasn't until 1927 that Ray Alden, who ran Frederick's in-store candy kitchen, developed the Frango mint meltaway chocolate.
|Frederick & Nelson's candy kitchen.|
|Marshall Field's candy kitchen.|
One crucial distinction between the two types of Frango chocolates is the packaging. Midwestern Frango chocolates are sold in traditional flat candy boxes, with the chocolates set in candy papers. By contrast, Northwest Frango chocolates are individually wrapped and sold in distinctive hexagon-shaped boxes.
The Midwest version had been produced on the 13th floor of the Marshall Field's flagship State Street store from 1929 until March 1999. However, demand for the chocolates overwhelmed the in-house facility; consequently, then corporate owner Dayton-Hudson Corp. handed over the production contract for Frangos to Gertrude Hawk Chocolates in Dunmore, Pennsylvania and closed the Field's candy kitchen, letting go virtually all of the candy kitchen's employees. This infuriated many Chicagoans and enraged Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who sought to have the, by-then iconic, chocolates made by a local Chicago company.