Tough Tootsie, and How It Got To Be That Way

February 5, 2010 at 8:32 am 9 comments

Durable. Rugged. Stands the test of time. That’s what you expect from radial tires. Not so much from candy.

But that’s the Tootsie Roll. Built to last. Tootsie Roll Industries describes the candy’s peculiar durability as “its non-perishable quality and resistance to extreme weather conditions.” I’ll say. It’s pretty amazing that a candy renowned for surviving under war conditions should end up near the top of America’s favorite treats.

How, you might wonder, did the Tootsie Roll get to be that way? Because if it weren’t for that non-perishable resistance, Tootsie Roll would have been just like any other chewy American candy of the early 1900s.

The secret is in the patent. U.S. Patent number 903,088, awarded to Leo Hirschfeld on November 3, 1908 with the unassuming name “A process for making candy.”

Normally a candy like taffy would be made by boiling the sugar mixture to a certain temperature, then pulling it on forks as it cooled, which would incorporate tiny air bubbles,  making it lighter in color and creating that chewy texture. Once it had cooled, you could cut it into pieces and wrap it.

What Leo figured out was that if you baked the candy at a low heat for a couple of hours after you pulled it but before you shaped it, the texture would be transformed from regular sticky taffy to the particular and peculiar texture of Tootsie Roll. The second cooking would cause the candy to rise like a cake, and become more light and porous. And it would make the candy a little tough, Leo admitted: “while tough in a measure it is not unpleasantly so, and will after a reasonable length of time thoroughly dissolve in the mouth.” That sounds about right.

Beecause Hirschfeld patented this process, no one else could do it. The patent was a very big deal in 1909. Tootsie manufacturer Stern & Saalberg Co. made sure everybody knew they had sole legal right to the Tootsie Roll process, and that they would prosecute anyone who tried to steal it. If you didn’t know, you could read it plainly at the bottom of their first known ad (shown here), which appeared in Confectioners Journal in May 1909:

The process for making Chocolate Tootsie Rolls is Patented. We have $50,000 laid aside to protect our rights.

The name “Tootsie” was also a registered trade-mark, protected by U.S. Patent and Trademark law. And in case you forgot, the patent was right there on the label of every single Tootsie Roll. The print is a little fuzzy, but it says “Tootsie Reg. U.S. Pat. Office” all over the label.

Detail of wrapper from early Tootsie Roll ads (1909-1912)

There is no candy like a Tootsie Roll, then or now. Pretty smart, that Leo Hirschfeld.

Related Posts:

  • Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story
  • Chocolate? Tootsie Rolls
  • Entry filed under: 1890 to WW I, Candy Making, Heroes and Personalities, Science. Tags: , , , , .

    Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story Hot Coca Cola

    9 Comments Add your own

    • 1. Mark D.  |  February 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

      I had no idea these were baked? I still can’t believe it, I assumed it was a normal taffy making process with some secret ingredient or cooling method that give them that texture. Very, very interesting!

      • 2. CandyProfessor  |  February 5, 2010 at 10:38 am

        Thanks! This patent is such an amazing glimpse behind the candy curtain. I remember pulling taffy as a kid. I never thought of putting it in the oven!

    • […] Tough Tootsie, and How it Got to Be That Way […]

    • 4. Allen T.  |  October 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      kudos,you mjssed your calling, patience to search out this story. On the new T.V. series Boardwalk Empire they display a sign for Nut Tootsie Rolls ,was there a nutted tootsie roll also on the market

      • 5. Don mc  |  November 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm

        I was born in 1947. The Tootsie roll I remember as a kid was more cake like than today’s Tootsie Roll, and darker in appearance. Am I wrong?

        • 6. Candy Professor  |  November 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

          I came along later. The patent pretty clearly describes a taffy candy. But a fresher candy would be more tender. Anybody else remember when?

    • 7. Bob B  |  January 28, 2014 at 10:15 am

      I agree with Don mc. I’m pretty convinced that what we know as a Tootsie Roll today is not at all what it was back in the 50’s when I was growing up, and I was pretty much of a Tootsie Roll addict back then. Now the texture is very homogeneous and the texture seems more gummy and elastic. It use to have a slight bit of a “breadlike” consistency back then and to my taste buds tasted much better – it had a milkier, less chemical taste. If they were at all “old” they would become rock hard. I’ve always wondered if others noticed this, and if Tootsie Roll has owned up to a recipe change over the years. Really to me the difference between old and new is substantial and not subtle in the least.

    • 8. Candy Christopher  |  November 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      I’m going to make my own taffy and give this a shot, any idea what the original ingredients were? I was born in the 90s and would love a chance to get to eat the real thing-

    • 9. Charliie K.  |  February 4, 2016 at 3:20 am

      You’re right, Bob. The Tootsie Roll of today is a poor cousin to the ones we were crazy about in the 1950s. As a frequent visitor to the corner candy store, I vividly recall that wide array of candy bars — heaven to an eight year old. My sweet tooth became a candy expert, and I eventually sampled every candy bar there. They cost a nickel including the hefty Tootsie Roll. Not only was the texture different, as you rightly noted, the roll had a richer chocolate taste. No chemical aftertaste discernible. All in all, it was a more satisfying taste and eating experience. Tootsie Roll pops were two cents each. Again, better quality and no chemical aftertaste. the 1950s, labels listing all ingredients were not yet required. Does anyone know how the ingredients of the Tootsie Roll have changed over the years. I don’t see why the company would disclose that. Admitting to the degradation ot their product would be too embarrassing for the firm.


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

    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.

    (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:
    Samira Kawash, "entry name,", entry date.

    If you would like to copy, re-post, or reproduce my work, please contact me for permission.


    Header Image Credit