The Story of Mary Elizabeth Evans Sharpe

Mary Elizabeth - Making Molasses 1917.2

Mary Elizabeth Evans was born in Syracuse, NY on October 23rd, 1884.  At the age of 15, she became the youngest businesswoman in the United States. In 1905, her father’s and grandfather’s sudden deaths left the Evans family poor and in search of new ways to pay the bills. Mary Elizabeth and her siblings had been taught how to make candy early in their childhood by their grandmother. When a Sunday school teacher encouraged her to bring a box of their homemade candy to a party, the rest was history. People began placing orders for the confections and Mary Elizabeth started a “Candy Club,” which for the price of four dollars a month, a one-pound box of candy would be delivered every Saturday.

Mary Elizabeth's Candy Shop, NYC 1908

Mary Elizabeth’s Candy Shop, NYC 1908

About this time, Mary Elizabeth also began traveling to the Adirondack and Berkshire mountains to fill candy orders during the summer months. With the candy company’s newfound success, the family rented a summer cottage in Newport, Rhode Island where residents urged them to establish a full-time shop in New York City. They did, and eventually opened several Candy Kitchens across the northeast.

During World War I Mary Elizabeth supported the war effort by rewriting her candy cookbook to use readily available items such as corn syrup, honey, molasses, and maple sugar instead of cane and beet sugar. Her efforts were recognized by President Herbert Hoover who invited her to Washington D.C. to share her conservation ideas. She also traveled with the Red Cross to Paris where she oversaw the U.S. Central Diet Kitchen.

In 1920, Mary Elizabeth was married to Henry Sharpe of Providence, Rhode Island. She then sold her candy business to her sister and her husband who ran it until it closed in the 1980s. Even though she no longer owned the business she continued her generosity by aiding organizations such as the Syracuse Memorial Hospital and the Syracuse Museum of Fine Art (known today as the Everson Museum of Art), as well as several landscaping projects for parks in Rhode Island.  Mary Elizabeth Evans Sharpe died on April 4, 1985 at the age of 100.