According to the history of peanut brittle candy, brittle was probably the first candy ever made. Peanut brittle made with corn syrups and nuts began appearing in cookbooks around the 19th century.
Because we find peanut brittle recipes most commonly in American cookbooks, it is generally recognized as an American recipe, but it’s safe to assume that brittles, like pralines, have been made in all countries—or any country where sweet liquids such as molasses, honey, sugar or a variety of other sweets were available—for hundreds of years. Soft and hard nougat candies also would have arrived in the cookbooks somewhere along the same time.
As for the peanuts, peanuts became more popular in America during the Civil War. According to the National Peanut Board, soldiers who were fighting survived off peanuts. In 1903, once George Washington Carver began to reveal how many ways peanuts could be used, their popularity exploded, especially in the American South.
Perhaps due to the Southern connection, the history of peanut brittle is tied to Tony Beaver, a lumberjack folk hero. In the story, Tony Beaver creates peanut brittle when he stops a flood using peanuts and molasses. Not only does he save a town, but he also gives them a terrific snack.