Six girls and their bemused-looking chaperone posed for this photograph in a pennant-bedecked room, possibly at York College, York, Nebraska, in about 1910. Many food historians trace the origins of fudge to the dormitories of Ivy League colleges in the mid-1880s. The earliest written account of the treat appears in a letter written in 1886 by a young woman from Vassar.
The origins of the name are obscure, but the word was used as a verb meaning “to surreptitiously adjust data to produce the desired conclusions” or “to cheat” long before it became the name of a simple, usually homemade candy. The word probably derived from “fadge,” meaning “to adjust,” which came from the old English word “fadge,” meaning “deceit.”
According to some, the candy got its name from students who would use the making of it as an excuse to stay up past curfew and thus “fudge” the rules.
This photograph is one of thirty from the NSHS collection now on display at the NSHS headquarters building at 1500 R Street in Lincoln.
—John Carter, Senior Research Folklorist
(This appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Nebraska History)