William H. Luden (1859-1949) launched his fledgling candy business in 1879 in Reading, Pa. His initial "factory" was his mother's 5 by 6 foot kitchen. His primary piece of equipment was a coal-burning stove. He began production with 30 pounds of sugar. One of his first products was a Pennsylvania Dutch treat called "moshie," made from brown sugar and molasses.
In 1892, Luden moved his operations to larger facilities at Sixth and Washington Streets in Reading. The company moved to its present location in 1910.
When Luden realized that essentially the same ingredients used to make candy also were used to make cough drops, he began developing his own cough drop. He collaborated with a pharmacist to develop a formula. He distinguished his cough drops by coloring them amber instead of the traditional red associated with cough drops at the time. He also made innovations with his packaging, adding a wax paper liner to the cough drop boxes to preserve flavor and freshness.
His candy line was extensive and included hard and soft candies, chocolates and marshmallow products. Luden manufactured his own chocolate for his chocolate novelties and chocolate-coated candies unlike many confectioners during that time.
In 1927, William H. Luden sold his company to Food Industries of Philadelphia, a holding company owned by the Dietrich family. 5th Avenue candy bar was introduced in 1936.
World War II forced Luden's to concentrate production efforts on Luden's menthol throat drops and 5th Avenue candy bars for military use. Immediately following the end of the war, Luden's reverted to producing a full line of confectionery products including: the famous Luden's menthol throat drops and 5th Avenue candy bar; penny chocolate candy consisting of ladyfingers, pillowcases, mint patties; penny jujube novelties, penny hard candy, penny coconut novelties, cast marshmallow novelties, and a line of penny, sugar-rolled jellies.
In 1980, Luden's acquired Queen Anne Candy Company, a manufacturer of chocolate covered cordial cherries. In 1986 the Dietrich family sold Luden's to Hershey Foods Corporation.