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Virgil: Our Century-Old Taffy Wrapping Machine

November 08, 2021

It's time we told you a little bit about Virgil!

 

In 2015 we bought an antique machine to cut and wrap our apple cider caramels, rather than doing them by hand. Called a K-Kiss Wrapper, these machines were originally made by the Package Machinery Corporation of Springfield, Massachusetts to wrap taffy. It’s called a “kiss wrapper” because small wrapped piece of candy was called a candy kiss in the early years of the 20th Century.

When we bought the machine, the seller told us that it was one of the oldest ones every made by the Package Machinery Corporation, a prototype from 1906. While I’m skeptical of the prototype claim, it’s certainly one of the older units, that’s for sure.

When first learning how to use the machine, I decided that it should have a name since we had suddenly started spending so much time together (our tractor, bag sealer, dehydrator and cargo van all have names, too). “Virgil” seemed like a natural fit. Virgil, the Roman poet, is Dante Alighieri’s spirit guide in Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and led Dante on a tour through the seven circles of Hell, then Purgatory, and at long last, Heaven. The parallels were clear. Sometimes our K-Kiss Wrapper wouldn’t cut the trays of caramels at all. Or would cut a handful of pieces and then misfire. Other times it would work in fits and starts – not great, but we would get there in the end. And then there were those rare times when the lengths of caramel would feed smoothly into the machine, be cut evenly and wrapped tidily and quickly. Our mechanical Virgil and I spent most of our time in Purgatory, with occasional day trips to Heaven or Hell.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out how Virgil works. I was initially told that it would take me a “solid year” to learn how to use the machine. That estimate turned out to be optimistic by half a decade. Only this year have I truly learned enough about the machine to be consistently able to use it smoothly. 

It turns out (to continue the metaphor) that Virgil was trying to lead me to Heaven the entire time. If I had been more observant, I would have been able to avoid nearly all of the quirks of this ancient machine that kept me on the bus tours to Purgatory. 

Here’s a brief movie that we hope captures the spirit of this truly fantastic machine!

 


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