Fry’s Five Boys was a solid milk chocolate bar that was once the most recognised chocolate bar in the world. It was still being sold until its withdrawal in 1976. But who remembers it now?
It was first sold by J S Fry & Sons of Bristol in 1902 with a wrapper showing not five boys, but the face of one boy, in a sailor suit, with five different expressions representing his anticipation and experience of eating the chocolate bar. Beneath each face was a caption:
Desperation, Pacification, Expectation, Acclamation, Realization [with a ‘z’]
The five pictures were photographs taken in 1885 and were used by J S Fry & Sons in its advertising; appearing on enamelled metal signs displayed outside confectioners, on posters and in newspapers. The boy was Lindsay Poulton, aged five, and his father and grandfather took the photographs for which Fry’s paid £200, a very large sum at the time, to have exclusive use of them.
Lindsay Poulton was still around in 1960s when he was tracked down by the Bristol Evening Post to Rhode Island in the USA. Mr Poulton remembered the photographic session well, particularly the Desperation shot, when his grandfather induced the necessary look, and the tears, by placing a cloth soaked in photographer’s ammonia around his grandson’s neck!
So when the chocolate bar was introduced in 1902 with its distinctive wrapper, the Five Boys image became irretrievably connected with it.
There was also a bar called Fry’s Five Centres produced from 1934 to 1992 but this shouldn’t be confused with the Five Boys bar. Five Centres was like today’s Fry’s Chocolate Cream, a fondant centre enclosed in dark chocolate, but with different flavoured centres. Strawberry, orange, raspberry, lemon and pineapple at first, then later on, coffee, lime, and blackcurrant replaced strawberry, lemon and pineapple.
I can remember Five Boys from the 1950s and 1960s. I thought the pictures of the boy were a bit weird, even scary.
Incidentally J S Fry & Sons started with Joseph Fry, a Quaker apothecary, making chocolate in Bristol around 1759. The Quakers were formed as a protest against the established Church and its members were debarred from many public and civic offices, and professions such as medicine or the law were not open to them. This is why so many Quakers gravitated towards business and commerce. As Quakers were concerned about levels of alcohol misuse in the population at large, the move into chocolate that began with cocoa drinks was therefore a reaction against the perceived misery and deprivation caused by alcohol.
Joseph Storrs Fry, the son of Joseph Fry, took control of the company in 1795, and the name was changed to J S Fry & Sons in 1822, when his sons were brought into the business. In 1847, Fry’s made the first chocolate bar for widespread consumption as we know it today, and in 1866 the firm began producing the Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar. Fry’s went onto develop over 220 products in the following decades, including Britain’s first chocolate Easter egg in 1873, Fry’s Turkish Delight in 1914, Fry’s Crunchie in 1929, and Tiffin in 1937.
In 1919, J S Fry & Sons merged with Cadbury’s, which had been started by John Cadbury, also a Quaker, in Birmingham in 1824. Ninety years later. Cadbury was bought up by Kraft Foods, the American food conglomerate in 2010. Cadbury still makes confectionery at Bournville near Birmingham, where the model village was built in 1893, but the former Fry & Sons factory in Somerdale, Keynsham near Bristol, was closed in 2011 with production being moved to a factory in Poland. There is a wonderful set of photographs here of J S Fry & Sons in their Bristol heyday (with thanks to Paul Townsend).
You can still buy Fry’s Chocolate Cream, Fry’s Peppermint Cream, Fry’s Orange Cream, and Fry’s Turkish Delight, but Fry’s Crunchie became Cadbury’s Crunchie in the 1970s.