The Broadway Show That Inspired The Name 'Junior Mints'

What do 20th century child actor Shirley Temple and classic American candy Junior Mints have in common? The movies. But it's a long-ish story. According to The Candy Encyclopedia, candy mogul James O. Welch, who founded the James O. Welch Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1927, attended a Broadway play in the early 1940s. The play, titled "Junior Miss," playwrights Jerome Chordorov and Joseph Fields brought to life a series of short stories author Sally Benson wrote for The New Yorker about the "troubles, trials and foibles" of 12-year-old Judy Graves (via Prabook).

What does this have to do with Junior Mints? James O. Welch attended the play, liked it, and tucked the name, "Junior Miss," into the back of his mind for future reference. It may seem like a stretch, but it's a widely acknowledged truth that Welch seized the opportunity to revisit "Junior Miss" in 1949 when his company debuted the can't-stop-poppin'-'em mini orbs of dark chocolate-covered mint we know today as Junior Mints (via The Candy Encyclopedia).

Believe it or not

Almost a decade passed between the time Welch attended a production of "Junior Miss" on Broadway and the debut of Junior Mints. While occasional detractors balk at the connection between the play and the name of the candy — positing it's either a coincidence or a convenience (via Mashed) — the timing of the product launch could have been a studied move of marketing genius on Welch's part. "Junior Miss" had a long shelf life. Following the success of its Broadway run, "Junior Miss" emerged again in 1942, this time as a radio series. According to Old Radio, CBS picked up the series and tapped Shirley Temple to play the lead role of Judy Graves. (And there's your Shirley Temple connection. The child star was radio's first "Junior Miss," giving voice to the character that inspired the name of Junior Mints).

In 1945, "Junior Miss" was making headlines again, this time as a full-length movie (via The Candy Encyclopedia). By 1949, when Welch introduced Junior Mints, "Junior Miss" was gone, but not forgotten. We think it's safe to surmise that "Junior Miss" was more than a one-hit-wonder. In its various incarnations — including a 1941 book (via Prabook) — over almost two decades, it was a sort of cultural compass point for young women navigating their teens. And, through product placement, Welch made a clear, nostalgia-inducing connection between Junior Mints, movies, entertainment. 

According to Alchetron, the boxed chocolate-covered mint candy quickly became a favorite snack at movie theater concession stands.