Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds' crooks.
In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes. It wasn't until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm.
In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers in Albany, Georgia. It was a laborious process - pulling, twisting, cutting and bending the candy by hand. It could only be done on a local scale.
In the 1950s, Bob's brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the younger McCormacks made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a large scale. Although modern technology has made candy canes accessible and plentiful, they've not lost their purity and simplicity as a traditional holiday food.