Home Business and Labor The Revolutionary Roots of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

The Revolutionary Roots of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Think "Paul Revere" when you bite into one

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34 comments

You can count the fluffernutter sandwich among Paul Revere’s many descendants along with Tony award-winning actress Anne Revere and Civil War Gen. Joseph Warren Revere.

Paul, Joseph Warren, Anne Revere and a Fluffernutter

The classic New England kids’ treat was the brainchild of Paul Revere’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Emma Curtis of Melrose, Mass. She and her brother Amory (Paul Revere’s great-great-great-grandson) began making and marketing Snowflake Marshmallow Crème in 1913.

In the 1890s, Amory founded a company in Boston that sold soda fountain hardware, fruit extracts and syrups. He sold the company and in 1901 moved to the suburb of Melrose, looking for more room. Amory bought up the entire east side of Crystal Street and built a house at No. 17.  Nine years later he began making marshmallow crème in his basement. It sold so well that in 1913 he built a factory down the side of the street he still owned.

Precursor to the Fluffernutter

The Curtises didn’t invent the product. Several other companies sold something similar. But Emma Curtis found novel ways to popularize the sweet treat. She created new recipes that used marshmallow crème and printed them in small brochures. She promoted the recipes on a weekly radio show and in a newspaper column. By 1915, The Curtises were selling Snowflake Marshmallow Crème all over the country, but especially in New England.

Curtis Marshmallow Factory, courtesy Melrose Public Library

Curtis Marshmallow Factory, courtesy Melrose Public Library

During World War I, Emma Curtis published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich. She called it the ‘Liberty Sandwich.’ Four years later, the Curtises introduced a marshmallow fluff, called SMAC Marshmallow, and printed the recipe for peanut-butter –and-SMAC sandwiches on the label. That is the earliest known example of a fluffernutter, according to Brigid Alverson, a Melrose historian.

Emma Curtis died in 1948, the day before her 85th birthday. Amory, who was much younger, continued to run the company with a cousin until 1962. The business closed that year after arsonists burned down the Curtis Marshmallow Factory.

Sugar and an Old Ford

As the Curtises built, then wound down, their marshmallow crème business, another chapter in the fluffernutter story was being written just a few towns away in Massachusetts.

Before World War II, a Somerville man named Archibald Query whipped up batches of marshmallow crème and sold them door-to-door.

Emma Curtis, courtesy Melrose Public Library

Emma Curtis, courtesy Melrose Public Library

The war created a sugar shortage, and Query couldn’t make his marshmallow crème business go. He sold the recipe for $500 to two Swampscott veterans, Allen Durkee and Fred Mower. They’d been in France during World War I and thought it clever to call the product ‘Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff.’ The French pun didn’t last long and their product was simply called  ‘Marshmallow Fluff.’

The gooey concoction was – and still is – made from sugar syrup, corn syrup, vanilla flavor and egg white.

Durkee-Mower Inc. started off with a barrel of sugar and a secondhand Ford. They cooked at night and sold door-to-door – for $1 a gallon — during the day. Soon they had plenty of customers and a factory in Swampscott. In 1929 they opened a state-of-the-art factory in Lynn, Mass.

Like Emma Curtis, Durkee and Mower used innovative techniques to popularize Marshmallow Fluff. In the ‘30s they sponsored a radio show called the Flufferettes on the 21 stations of the Yankee Radio Network. The Flufferettes came right before the Jack Benny Show and featured live music and comedy.

The final episode featured the Yummy Book, which included recipes for cakes, pies, candies, frostings and – of course – the fluffernutter sandwich.

Fight for Fluff

It wasn’t called the fluffernutter sandwich, though, until 1960, when the Durkee-Mower advertising agency came up with the name ‘fluffernutter’ as a way to market the sandwich.  It caught on, and today the fluffernutter is as much a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or Moxie soda.

sandwich_375Durkee-Mower is still in business, still in Lynn and still selling Marshmallow Fluff through grocery stores and online.

In 2006, Massachusetts state Sen. Jarrett Barrios filed a bill that would restrict the serving of fluffernutter sandwiches in schools. State Rep. Kathi-Ann Reinstein, who represented the district where Marshmallow Fluff is made, vowed to fight to the death for Fluff.

Somerville now holds an annual festival called ‘What the Fluff?’ to celebrate Fluff and fluffernutter sandwiches. In 2011, astronaut Richard Michael Linnehan, who had eaten a fluffernutter sandwich aboard the International Space Station, served as a contest judge. On Sept. 12, 2020, organizers held a virtual What the Fluff? festival, livestreamed on Facebook, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

 

Paul Revere probably put dried apples in his saddlebags to snack on when he took his famous ride. You’ll find a recipe for them and many others in the newly revised “29 Historic New England Apple Recipes.” Available now in paperback from Amazon.

 

 

 

With thanks to The Melrose Mirror. This story was updated in 2023. Image of Fluffernutter sandwich By Kimberly Vardeman – https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimberlykv/3740704177/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50824392.

34 comments

William Dunn March 10, 2014 - 8:26 pm

Always like this?

Galen Sanborn March 10, 2014 - 9:42 pm

A fluffernutter is ALWAYS on the menu at my house. Blew my mind when I first came south, most people have never heard of a fluffernutter. Now I have quite a few people hooked.

Elaine Inkster August 14, 2015 - 7:21 pm

I was so disappointed when I moved to Texas that Fluff was not available (as well as white tuna and top split hotdog rolls!). I had to settle for Marshmallow Creme.

nancy hubert August 20, 2018 - 11:24 pm

poor you – glad i live up here!!

Christina Rolsma March 10, 2014 - 9:55 pm

Wow. Never thought about Paul Revere’s relative would do something like this!

Tracy Rollins Kohlepp March 10, 2014 - 10:08 pm

Love fluff!

Alison Herman Schooley March 10, 2014 - 11:49 pm

One of the favorites in our house, I never knew this.

Cait Johnson March 11, 2014 - 12:01 am

Hubby and I have never heard of this! Intetesting.

Cara Birrittieri March 11, 2014 - 6:12 am

We can’t live without fluff!

Maria Scibelli Greenberg March 11, 2014 - 8:21 am

Emily Greenberg
Nate Greenberg

Molly Landrigan March 11, 2014 - 11:29 am

Kids’ treat?? I like it , too!!

Carol Downey March 11, 2014 - 12:56 pm

great post.

Shania Nissanka Greenberg March 11, 2014 - 3:20 pm

David L. Hess

Robin Palladino Abel March 11, 2014 - 8:17 pm

Marshmallow Fluff was born in Somerville Karen Abel

Jayne Russell-Wells March 11, 2014 - 10:24 pm

Fluffanutter and peanut butter sandwich! #1!

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nancy hubert September 5, 2017 - 9:59 am

how can i share this??

Leslie Landrigan September 5, 2017 - 12:24 pm

You could try Facebook.

Laura E Berry October 2, 2017 - 7:26 pm

Easy to share, just click on it and it will come to the article. Copy the link and paste it where you want to share it. It will open to the way you saw it.

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