After establishing the Adirondack Mountain Creams factory at the Old Brick Schoolhouse in Essex, New York in 1904 0r 1905 John Bird Burnham focused his entrepreneurial energy on expanding and improving the manufacturing process to meet growing demand for his maple sugar confections.
His son, Koert Burnham remembered 6-8 female employees and one man in the early days at the factory and as many as ten later on. However, manufacturing and packaging the maple sugar candy also required people to gather local ingredients, maple syrup for preparing the confection and birch bark for packaging the distinctive Adirondack brand.
[Burnham] purchased a grove of hard maple trees on Split Rock Mountain. Its sugar bush produced maple syrup as well as both hard and soft maple sugar. (Burnham, Koert D. Highland Forests: Historical Sketches of Our Land. USA: 1990. pg.49)
Men collected and processed the sap from the Split Rock Mountain sugar bush, another sugar bush owned by John Bird Burnham’s father-in-law, Rev. George Washington DuBois, and the sugar bush at Highlands, Burnham’s home on Willsboro Mountain. The Burnhams also purchased additional maple syrup from other local producers to supplement their own, when necessary.
Though maple syrup was the most important ingredient for Adirondack Mountain Creams, birch bark was a close second in order to consistently manufacture the unique packaging which helped distinguish the authentic Adirondack candy.
it took men in the woods when the birch trees were going to be cut for firewood or other purposes… and then they were cutting boards where the man would slash with a knife for the different sized packages… (Burnham, Koert. March 31, 1975 interview)
Harvesting and field processing birch bark while logging for firewood and lumber ensured a ready supply for manufacturing birch bark boxes.
the candy… was attractively packaged in a birchbark container, tied with green raffia and sealed with red wax. (De Sormo, Maitland C.. John Bird Burnham: Klondiker, Adirondacker, Eminent Conservationist. Saranac Lake: New York Adirondack Yesteryears Inc., 1978. p.114)
Burnham understood that the packaging was a critical component of Adirondack Mountain Creams marketing, almost as important as distribution and second only to manufacturing the “always creamy, never sugary” treats. The Burnhams understood were obsessive about the quality and consistency of their product.
it was funny how worried they were about impurities. They thought only three kinds of sugar were any good… beet sugar, cane sugar, or maple sugar. And they hated the idea of glucose or dextrose or any of those other types of things. (Burnham, Koert. March 31, 1975 interview)
During candy preparation, impurities were avoided by covering the factory tables in wax paper and exclusively using silver spoons because Henrietta and John Bird Burnham believed that would eliminate contamination. In fact, Koert Burnham remembered that “every one of our [silver] spoons were all worn out” from manufacturing Adirondack Mountain Creams.
To make it you take a cup of very heavy cream and 2 cups of maple syrup and boil the mixture without stirring until when you drop some in cold water you could make, with your fingers, a little round, soft ball and then you’d let it cool for a bit, then use pure Burnett’s Vanilla and whip the deuce out of it — that’s what gave it its creamy texture… They’d drop the candies—you had to do it very quickly when it was just the right temperature—then on top of each one was half of [a] pecan… (Burnham, Koert. March 31, 1975 interview)
A century later Adirondack Mountain Creams still sound delicious!