Posts tagged ‘tootsie rolls’

Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not

Here’s an ad for Tootsie Rolls that ran in February and March 1910:

Chocolate Tootsie Rolls are “a hit with all.” And just whom do we mean by “all”? Let’s see. We have the lady at leisure with a book in one hand and a Tootsie in the other. Or for the working woman, a Tootsie chew at the typewriter. Tootsie is for the sporting types as well, as we see Lady offering a morsel to a burly line backer. At home, Mama might offer a bite to her sweet one. Look, there’s Junior, snacking on a Tootsie on his way home from school. And even Officer Nightstick enjoys his Tootsie. Men and women, young and old, leisured and working, at play, school, home or office: everybody eats Tootsie Rolls.

Tootsie Rolls is up to something interesting in this ad. They are selling a piece of candy at the price of one cent: penny candy. But “penny candy” is cheap, in price and quality, and considered suitable only for children. And the penny candy market is the very bottom. If you want a big piece of the candy pie, you need to sell up.

Stern & Saalberg, the makers of the Chocolate Tootsie Roll, had a couple of ideas. First was the packaging. Whether Tootsie Rolls were the first penny candy to be wrapped in paper is impossible to say. Paper wrapping machines were common by 1908, the year Tootsie Rolls were first marketed, and other candies large and small were sold wrapped. But the wrapper on the Tootsie Roll is distinctive, the shape is distinctive, and the display of all those Rolls lined up in their case is quite eye catching. And while “penny candy” was usually brightly colored to catch the child’s eye, Tootsie Roll was wrapped in more “sophisticated” tones of gold and chocolate brown.

The power of syllogism also came in hand for making the Tootsie Roll stand out in the penny field. The copy on this ad reads: “Retailed at one cent each but no more to be classed with the ordinary run of Penny Goods than a Plate of Ice Cream with a Snowball.” Put on your SAT hats: Snowball is to Ice Cream as Penny Good is to Tootsie Roll. Tootsie Roll comes out way ahead in this game of logic.

It wasn’t long, though, before the obvious solution presented itself. In April 1910, a new ad appeared proclaiming “We HAD to pack them in 5 and 10c. packages–everybody asked us to–so here they are, the neatest style and biggest value ever put into a 5 or 10c package.” :

Of course, that didn’t mean that you were getting a special deal. As you can see in this re-design of the package in 1913, a 5 cent box gives you 5 one cent candies, and likewise for 10 cents. But you do get a nice box to go with it.

Sources: Stern & Saalberg ads for Tootsie Rolls from Confectioners Journal (1910); 1913 packaging illustrated in International Confectioner (1913)

February 19, 2010 at 8:24 am 3 comments

Chocolate? Tootsie Rolls

In honor of Katharine Weber, True Confections, and her brilliant “Little Sammies” candies, I am dedicating this week to Tootsie Rolls.

Who really likes Tootsie Rolls, any way? Not quite chocolate, not quite caramel, not quite taffy. I remember getting lots of Tootsie Rolls in my Halloween bucket, and wishing for less. Now that I buy Halloween candy to give away, I know why: it’s cheap. It’s chocolate-ish, but without the expense of actual chocolate.

Actually, its this not-quite-chocolate that goes a long way toward explaining the endurance of Tootsie Roll in the candy universe. Before air conditioning and refrigeration, selling candy in the summer months was a tricky proposition. Chocolate, of course, was out. Summer candies were your taffies and your marshmallows, things that could bear some heat and humidity and not suffer too much. The genius of Tootsie Roll was to create a summer candy that was a flavor never before seen in summer candies, the flavor of chocolate.

This ad to the retail trade from 1910 promises “They melt in the mouth… But NEVER in the case.” Reminds me of another slogan about melting in the mouth… But the point here is that, because they are individually wrapped, they won’t stick together. And because they are what they are, they won’t collapse in a puddle if you ship them in July.

Notice that in 1910 they were called “Chocolate Tootsie Rolls.” Granted, Tootsie Roll’s idea of chocolate is a pretty vague one. Harvey Wiley, who became famous as a pure food crusader, analysed the contents of Tootsie Rolls for Good Housekeeping Magazine. Here’s what he had to say:

Chocolate Tootsie Rolls: About 40 per cent, glucose and 48 per cent, of sugar. Not enough chocolate to give a characteristic flavor or to warrant name.

I’m with Wiley on the chocolate flavor problem. Notice they dropped the “Chocolate” in the name of the candy, so now it’s just “Tootsie Roll.” But they were still using the word “chocolate” on the wrapper in the 1940s and 1950s. If you eat one of these with your eyes closed, and you don’t know what it is, I doubt “chocolate” will come to mind. As far as I’m concerned, the chocolaty flavor of Tootsie Rolls is mostly the power of suggestion.

It’s pretty amazing to think that the Tootsie Roll has been around for one hundred years at least. When you eat one today, you are eating the same candy your great-grandmother might have pulled from her sticky pocket. The Tootsie Roll story is a classic tale of an immigrant with an idea and a dream. Here’s the official company history from the Tootsie Industries web site:

The Tootsie Roll story began in 1896, when Austrian-born Leo Hirshfield opened a tiny candy shop in New York City. Taking full advantage of his confectioner’s background, Hirshfield hand-crafted a variety of products, including an individually wrapped, oblong, chewy, chocolate candy that quickly became a customer favorite. Sold at a penny apiece and affectionately named after Hirshfield’s five-year old daughter, Clara, whose nickname was “Tootsie,” Tootsie Rolls propelled Hirshfield’s modest corner store into burgeoning candy enterprise that has evolved in little more than a century into the multinational corporation, Tootsie Roll Industries.

But wait just a second. That 1910 ad we were looking at, it doesn’t say anything about Leo Hirshfield. The company advertising “Chocolate Tootsie Rolls” is called Stern & Saalberg. So were there two companies making Tootsie Rolls in the early 1900s? Is this a Tootsie Roll impostor, a chewy chocolaty thief? Where is Leo Hirshfield?

A fudgey mystery is afoot… Stay tuned!

Check out my review of True Confections for more on Katharine Weber’s candy fancies.

February 1, 2010 at 8:52 am 7 comments


Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
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