Those in the know believe that jelly beans are a combination of the soft, chewy Middle Eastern sweet called Turkish Delight that has been around for thousands of years and the hard candy shell of Jordan Almonds, a product of the 17th Century.
The earliest reference to jelly beans is associated with Boston candy maker William Schrafft who urged people to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Nothing helps ward off the discomfort of gangrene quite like a jelly bean, we guess.
Jelly beans became a wide-spread American treat in the early 20th Century, sold with other penny candies, and in the 1930’s the popular association of jelly beans and Easter was firmly entrenched in our culture, most likely due to the ovate shape (that means ‘shaped like an egg,’ but we prefer the fancy word).
Jelly beans worked their way into more than just holiday traditions, however; they have made a name for themselves in music and politics, as well. American fans thought that The Beatles liked jelly babies, but not knowing what those are, fans hurled jelly beans instead, oblivious to the fact that jelly beans are much harder than jelly babies and therefore hurt when they hit their target. Having been pelted with jelly beans once too often, George Harrison commented, “We don’t like jelly babies, or fruit gums for that matter, so think how we feel standing on stage trying to dodge the stuff, before you throw some more at us.”
In politics, jelly beans earned fame as president Ronald Reagan’s favorite treat (he started munching on them to help him stop smoking his pipe). Jelly Belly, maker of the famous gourmet jelly beans, created the Blueberry Jelly Belly expressly for the president, who once said about himself and his comrades, “We can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans.”
Source: The History of Jelly Beans