Fig Newtons Have Nothing to Do With Isaac Newton

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Two Nabisco-brand Fig Newtons stacked on each other. Photo by Evan Amos.

Fig Newtons have nothing to do with physicist Isaac Newton; rather, they have everything to do with a physician’s cure, a baker from Ohio, and the town of Newton, Mass.

The Story of Fig Newtons

The story of Fig Newtons goes back to the late 19th Century. Many doctors during the 1800s believed the cause of illnesses during the time was related to a poor digestive system. Doctors prescribed their patients to eat biscuits and fruit as a cure. Since the United States of America didn’t have ample access to tea and biscuits like England, these delicacies were hand-made locally.

One of those biscuit and fruit bakers was Charles M. Roser, a cookie baker born in Ohio and living in Philadelphia. Roser sold his fig cookie recipe to the Boston-based bakery, Kennedy Biscuit Works.

The Fig Newton Machine is Invented

While the recipe was delicious, mass production was difficult without proper machinery. James Henry Mitchell from Florida came to the rescue and invented a machine with two parts. The inside mechanism supplied the fig paste, and the outside layer gave a delicious biscuit coating. This made it possible for Fig Newtons to be produced on a massive scale.

The machine didn’t slice the biscuits, though; it only filled them. The machine actually made one giant Fig Newton that was later sliced by hand. Can you imagine buying a loaf of Fig Newtons with your bread every week?! Sign us up!

Fig Newtons Get Their Name

Kennedy Biscuit Works named many of their cookies after Boston cities, so it’s no surprise that they named this cookie after the town of Newton, Massachusetts. Newton is located about a half an hour west of Boston and can be accessed by car or the MBTA Green Line.

It wasn’t until The Kennedy Biscuit Company became associated with the New York Biscuit Company that the cookie was trademarked as Fig Newtons. These two baking companies merged to form the popular and well-known company of Nabisco!

More than Just a Fig

Nabisco wasn’t satisfied with only making fig-flavored-cookies. In 2012, Nabisco actually rebranded the cookie and dropped the fig title to simply call the cookie Newtons. They began producing flavors like apple cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry! Some people still refer to them as Fig Newtons, though. #traditionalists

Nabisco made another bold move and created Newtons Fruit Thins in flavors like banana drizzled with dark fudge, cranberry citrus oat, blueberry brown sugar, cherry vanilla, and more! These fruit thins look more like a flat cookie and less like the classic jam-filled, soft cookie we all know and love, but—they are chocked full of whole grains like the original.

Last Word on Fig Newtons

If you’re celebrating National Fig Newton Day like we are, grab the traditional fig flavor and maybe some blueberry ones, too? Don’t leave out the Fruit Thins! Truly, all of these flavors are delicious, delectable, and nutritious. If a doctor prescribes a cookie, it can’t be too bad, right?

Newtons make a great finale of lunch or a mid-morning snack. Take some on the go and celebrate! Besides, you only get to celebrate National Fig Newton Day once a year.

For more history of food, check out The Loss of the NECCO Wafer!

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