Posts filed under ‘Marketing’

Another Tootsie Girl

Here at Candy Professor, we’re on the elusive trail of “Tootsie.”

The official Tootsie Roll story is that candy inventor Leo Hirschfeld named the chewy chocolate bite after his little daughter Clara, nickname “Tootsie.”

As I discussed in the previous post, a little girl called “Tattling Tootsie” was used to promote an earlier Stern & Saalberg product, Bromangleon dessert powder (which was also a Hirschfeld invention). But Tattling Tootsie doesn’t seem to have been used to promote Tootsie Rolls.

But here’s an intriguing image, courtesy of John and Stephanie Cook, who found this advertising card used as the backing for an old print:

Is this Tootsie? The verse doesn’t seem to suggest a name; here’s a best guess reconstruction suggested by the Cooks:

Why has the hungry [little girl] begun her lunch so [soon?]

Because you cannot [make her wait] for Tootsie Rolls [till noon.]

I don’t know what Clara Hirschfeld looked like. But this Tootsie Roll tyke in no way resembles Tattling Tootsie used in the Bromangelon ads.

The Bromangelon Tootsie is from around 1907. As for the Tootsie Roll girl, there are several clues that help date this ad. The wrapper in the image was introduced in 1913. The earlier wrapper said “Chocolate Tootsie Roll”, the new wrapper and packaging introduced in 1913 added “Chocolate Candy Tootsie Roll.” I do know that in 1919 the wrapper looked totally different, but it is most likely that by 1917 at the latest Tootsie Roll was not using this style wrapper. So I would put this placard as being before WWI, but no older than 1913.

I think these two little Tootsie girls tell us more about changing images of girl-hood and advertising than they do about Clara Hirschfeld. The earlier Tattling Tootsie is explicitly connected with the home. Her outfit and pose are unambiguously feminine. She is prim and proper: her dress and hair are neat and controlled. Bromangelon was marketed to housewives as a convenience food, so perhaps the neat and prim little girl also suggests the successful mother who keeps her child looking so well-tended.

But the later Tootsie Roll girl seems more mischievous.  The bow in her hair assures us she is a girl, but her drooping socks and ambiguous clothes suggest more outdoors and active adventure. Her school books locate her outside the home, away from parents and parental controls. And this girl is a little naughty: she won’t wait to eat her Tootsie Roll. This ad may have been aimed as much at children as at adults; in this period, it would not have been uncommon for a child to purchase such candy on her own, much as suggested in this ad.

By the way, I believe the artist has taken some liberty in drawing the Tootsie Roll candy to monstrous scale for visual effect. The tube in the girl’s hand seems to be immense, bigger even than her school books. But actual Tootsie Roll candy as you would have found it for sale in this period was probably more like 3-4 inches long.

Thanks to John and Stephanie Cook for their permission to share this image and for their enthusiasm for candy sleuthing.

Related Posts:

January 25, 2011 at 11:10 am 1 comment

Tootsie, Bromangelon, and a Foul Stench

Before Tootsie Roll, there was Bromangelon.

Bromangelon, that delicious jelled dessert powder that was a staple of American kitchens in the 1890s and 1900s. Jell-O barely existed; it was Bromangelon that housewives turned to for their surprising dessert effects.

If you haven’t read the pre-history of Tootsie Rolls, you can read my Tootsie expose here. But today I want to fill in a few choice details about Bromangelon. The sugar-flavor-gelatin product was the original break-out hit of the Stern & Saalberg Company, who would later introduce Tootsie Rolls to the world.

Tootsie Rolls did not exist prior to 1909. But Tootsie did; Tattling Tootsie, that is. Tattling Tootsie, a cute little dark-haired girl, was the brand icon for  Bromangelon. A generous reader sent me images of a promotional booklet for the dessert product, featuring little Tootsie herself tattling away.

The booklet continues with several pages of doggerel accounting Tootsie’s tendency to tattle on members of the household and their love of Bromangelon. I date this color advertising booklet to around 1907; a similar black and white “Tattling  Tootsie” booklet refers to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, so later than that date. The black and white version mentions fewer flavors, and has some details in the drawing that suggest an earlier printing, so I’m dating this color version as later, but prior to Stern & Saalberg’s venture into Tootsie Rolls in 1909.

Legend has it that Tootsie was the nickname for Clara, the daughter of Leo Hirschfeld, who invented both Bromangelon and Tootsie Roll. Perhaps. But Tattling Tootsie looks more like the work of an ad agency than the inspiration of a candy inventor. Tootsie was a popular nickname, something you might call just about any cute girl (as in “hiya, toots!”). Tootsie Roll is a cute name for a candy, sure, but the image of a girl in the style of Tattling Tootsie does not appear to have been associated with the candy in its early advertising.

Bromangelon was at the cutting edge of a new style of cuisine, food from chemicals and packages that assembled quickly and inspired radically new interpretations of traditional ways of eating. Salad, dessert, breakfast and dinner blended together under the ministrations of a package of Bromangelon and a creative assemblage of other ingredients.

The original Bromangelon was pink, of undisclosed flavor. By the time of this booklet in the early 1900s, several flavors were available: Lemon, Orange, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Peach and Chocolate. The Chocolate flavor, a late addition to the line up, is especially interesting in light of later Tootsie Roll developments. As for the fruit flavors, they may have been more or less recognizeable; the science of flavoring was at this time in its infancy, and terms like “peach” and “lemon” were more likely to signify aromatic chemicals than fruit essences.

Not everyone was a fan of Bromangelon. The name itself is a puzzle. Publicity tended to include the explanatory breakdown “bro-man-gel-on” suggesting that consumers were having trouble remembering or pronouncing the neologism. From The American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record (1903), this fanciful Greek-ish etymology:

What is Bromangelon?

A foul spirit. From bromos, a stench, and angellus, a spirit.

Thanks to Louise Volper for the Bromangelon booklet. She has a great blog at

January 21, 2011 at 10:56 am 1 comment

Chicken Dinner is not for Dinner

Chicken Dinner.

Of all the “jazzy” candy bars from the 1920s, this one still seems the most strange. Candy and chicken seem about as far apart as you can get. What were they thinking?

Sperry Candy Company of Milwaukee WI introduced the bar in 1923 with the slogan “Candy Made Good.” Good like candy, but also good like chicken dinner. An ad to the trade explained the reasoning behind the name: “A name which suggests the best of something good to eat, and known to every child.” These children of 1923, I’d love to meet them. Sperry seemed to think that a big roast chicken was the best lure for the kiddie market.

Trade ad, 1924 Confectioners Journal



Chicken Dinner originally sold for 10 cents, the high end of the candy piece market. Sperry described it as “an expensive, high grade candy, put up in convenient 10 cent packages.” Neither in the ads nor on the package did they say much about what was actually in the candy bar. The innovation and excitement of Chicken Dinner wasn’t nuts or nougat, it was the name.

Chicken Dinner meant quality and goodness. What it did not mean, at least not directly, was meal replacement. I’ve read in more than one account of candy during the Depression that bars like Chicken Dinner and Denver Sandwich were popular in part because they promised a kind of imaginary substitute for more expensive real meals. Now I’m beginning to doubt that story. For one, both those bars were first marketed before the Depression, so the context of empty pockets and hungry bellies doesn’t explain these names’ origins. Candy bars in this period had all kinds of outlandish names. Choosing to call your candy bar something so unlike candy, but still appealing, seems a great way to get a second look in a crowded field. But more than that:  the idea that a candy bar might be contemplated as somehow equivalent to chicken or a sandwich sounds much more like our contemporary “anything goes” food culture.

I suspect a candy bar named “Pizza Dinner” today might not take off the way Chicken Dinner did. It was one of the best selling candy bars in its day, and remained on the market for some 50 years. It wasn’t just that everybody loved a good chicken dinner. And it probably didn’t have too much to do with the bar itself.  It was advertising.

In the 1920s, not everyone realized that advertising was the secret to success. Candy bars that were heavily advertised from their inception would go on to bigger and bigger shares (anyone could have realized in the early 1920s that Milky Way and O, Henry! would be the ones to watch). There was no TV in those days. Radio advertising wouldn’t really catch on until the 1930s. So live interactions with the candy-buying public were the only way to get the word out.

Chicken Dinner billboards were a common sight around the land. But Sperry wasn’t just waiting around for potential customers to pass by to see the sign. In 1926, Sperry’s advertising experts came up with the idea of putting  Chicken Dinner signs, and big colorful chickens, on automobiles and driving them around cities drumming up excitement. Back up was provided by teams of window trimmers, artists, and even circus clowns. Behind the scenes, Sperry was assigning advertising staff to work permanently in the field to support distribution and sales. This was a new idea; most companies sent their goods off with jobbers who made the distribution rounds in different locations and didn’t stick around to provide marketing support.

The best think about Chicken Dinner besides the name was the chicken cars, which became quite elaborate. Fleets of Chicken Dinner cars or trucks would arrive in town to deliver the candy goods. Here you can see an image from the mid 1930s; here’s a later model. What did people think the first time they saw one?



December 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm 6 comments

Candy Doll Novelties in the 1920s

Today candy novelties are mostly cheap plastic toys, usually generic one-offs. Advertising and brand loyalty are the keys to the success of the biggest candy companies.

High-quality candy novelties were much more important in the early days of the candy industry. Success in the candy business hinged on moving quickly to introduce new kinds of candy and new novelties to catch the eye of child or adult shopper. Higher priced candy was often bought as a gift, and clever or eye catching presentations would increase a gift’s value. For children’s candies, the novelty could transform a simple candy into something much more appealing.

These candy dolls from the 1920s were manufactured by Huyler’s, a large confectioner better known for quality chocolates. Although these goods are for children, they would have been sold at higher-priced shops and department stores alongside Huyler’s chocolate goods and similar candies. Each was made by hand. These candy dolls appear primitive to the modern eye, but must have been charming and appealing to a child in the 1920s.

The first is described as a  “grotesque candy doll … of a type to endear it to the hearts of children.” I think in this context “grotesque” is supposed to mean “comical,” but you can judge for yourself:

Here is Simple Simon, fashioned of candy sticks, with his chocolate pies.  The book motif is cleverly carried through from the shape of the box to the hand-written rhyme, with the figures and candies playing out the theme.

In the Simple Simon package, the Huyler’s name is featured prominently. The transformation of candy box into part of a toy novelty assures that the manufacturer’s name stays in the child’s mind. The novelties are not only for children’s delight, but also to build business:

The children of today are the candy buyers of the future. [These novelties] give the manufacturer a chance to get first place in the child’s affections.

Source: Edward T. Tandy, “Place of Novelties in Merchandising,” Confectioners Journal April 1921 (Printers Ink March 1921)

November 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Retailing Halloween in the 1920s

One of the fun things about looking back at the beginnings of the commercial candy trade is to see how modern ideas about marketing, sales and promotion first began to take hold. Today we are so accustomed to the annual round of seasonal sales and holiday decorations. But in the early 1900s, these were new ideas for retail.

In a 1917 issue of The National Druggist (St. Louis, MO), for example, a writer explains the basic idea of holiday promotion:

Holiday times are always good times for business. In the first place, people are then in a spending humor. “Other days they go around with their pockets buttoned up tight,” says an old druggist. “On holidays they open them.” … The point is that it will pay a retail merchant to capitalize the holidays as they come along, that is, to catch people while they are in a spending humor.

The description for window display possibilities for Halloween from this same article gives a useful description of the kind of commercial decorations that were widely available from stationery and novelty shops in this era:

Halloween gives us a fine opportunity for working up timely business. The wholesale stationers and novelty houses supply a big line of Halloween favors, place cards, paper table covers, paper napkins, noise makers, Halloween hats and a variety of Halloween decorations. Halloween suits for small children are coming into vogue now and some good sales may be made. Halloween is always a great time for window displays. The season’s colors, yellow and black, are extremely effective.

Interesting to note the reference to “Halloween suits for small children.” Although trick or treating was not yet invented, it was popular in some cities and towns to parade about or to go visiting door to door on Halloween. Here is an early glimmer of the costume business that will become so central to Halloween in our day.

Publications for soda fountains and candy shops made similar efforts to persuade business proprietors of the necessity of dressing up for the holidays. In the October 1921 issue of  The Soda  Fountain (New York, NY), a column urges “More Window Displays Needed”:

Window displays and fountain decorations are more important factors in business than is generally realized and the establishments which make use of them to the fullest extent are loud in their praise of them as business-getters.

This column offers some ideas for Halloween display as well:

Halloween, with its traditional orange and black color schemes, its pumpkins and black cats and witches, offers the excuse for any number of effective decorative schemes. With these displays may be joined various devices for attracting trade: souvenirs, special dishes, contests, etc., may all be tied up with the Halloween displays. Special candy sales, using appropriate containers are effective and often used to attract attention.

Soda fountains often sold candy as well, so the reference to special candy sales is not unusual. But it is notable that while special sales are mentioned, special candies are not.

While many small businesses seem to have been timid about taking advantage of holiday themes, some retailers in this era were extremely creative and adventurous in mounting impressive seasonal displays. A 1918 story in The National Drug Clerk (Chicago) describes in detail the Halloween display of one large New York druggist:

The ceiling and walls of the window were covered with grey crepe, and were cleverly decorated with black witches sailing on their brooms, black cats, and yellow pumpkins. To give a different effect, some of the witches were sailing in aeroplanes, and had a black cat sitting on one of the wings.

In the middle of the window was the customary large pumpkin. The eyes, instead of being square, were large and round.and long eyebrows tilting down toward the nose, were painted in, in black. The nose was cut in a V-shape, with black whiskers twirling around the mouth. The eyes were illuminated with tiny red lights.To the left of the pumpkin was a large mask (about two or three times the size of a regular mask) resembling a pirate. … To the right of the pumpkin was a mask resembling the Giant in “Jack the Giant Killer.” …  Suspended on different colored strings, which hung from the ceiling, were numerous kinds of masks of regulation size. 

On the floor of the window, which was also covered with grey crepe, were dainty little printed invitations. Some of the invitations were decorated with black cats while some were plain. Here and there were favors for the party, consisting of tiny boxes of candy in the shape of wishing wells and cats, whistles shaped like witches on their brooms, small dolls dressed up as witches and apples made of a wire frame, covered with red transparent paper, and filled with candy.

Leaning against the walls were books of games, conundrums and some of the popular ghost stories and superstitions connected with Hallowe’en.

This is a display for a druggist, not a candy store, but it is nevertheless striking that candy is so inconspicuous in the display. Druggists were perhaps the next largest retailers of candy, after specialty candy shops.Yet in this display, candy is only featured as the filling for party favors.

I imagine these paper-covered wire frame apple favors as the ancient ancestors of today’s trick or treat plastic pumpkin buckets. A century ago, kids would take home an apple’s worth of candy corn from their Halloween festivities. Today, we fill those huge pumpkins to the brim.

October 20, 2010 at 10:30 am 3 comments

Gum Passion

What’s your passion? What gets you really excited? Is it…gum?

Seriously. The gum market is looking for a way to expand, and consultants have decided that what gum consumers are looking for, what is really lacking in their gum, is excitement. This is the theory behind the marketing for recently introduced Stride Shift, a someone disappointing attempt at getting something to happen while you’re chewing gum. In a New York Times piece on the new gum marketing campaign, the Stride spokesman explains:

Stride speaks to younger consumers who chew gum not for functional reasons but for emotional reasons. Younger consumers have a disdain for the ordinary, and they like to be snapped out of boredom.

At the time, it seemed to me a little bit of a stretch. Little did I know that it was the first glimpse of a future of mandatory gum excitement.

Here’s the latest from Trident Layers, a promotion that is as far as I am concerned just one more symptom of American capitalism’s hurling of itself off the rails. It turns out that if the gum itself isn’t so exciting (after all, it’s just gum), promoters can certainly make a lot of noise around the gum to simulate excitement.

On October 21, rush to Times Square between 6:30 am and 2:30 pm, where you’ll be able to pay for a taxi ride anywhere in the city limits with a pack of new Trident Layers “Cool Mint+Melon Fresco” gum. And you don’t even need to buy the gum. Just take one of the sample packs, stand in a big long line, and play gum games while you wait for your taxi.

This doesn’t even make sense to me. If you need to go somewhere, why would you first go to Times Square to wait for a gum-accepting taxi? And as for excitement, do these people realize that waiting for a cab is one of the least exciting things to do in New York City? Gum or no gum?

The real kicker in all of this is that the whole theme seems to have gotten reversed. You’ve probably seen the TV commercials where teen babysitters get all excited about getting gum instead of money for their labors. Trident Layers is “So Good You’ll Want to Get Paid in Gum!” But its not the Times Square targets tourists who are going to get paid in gum. It’ s the taxi drivers. And if the gum is so good, why would people be willing to trade it for a taxi ride? But the whole thing kind falls apart if you say “it’s so good you’ll try to pay for stuff you’d rather have with the gum you’re happy to get rid of.” Obviously, none of this matters. What matters is EXCITEMENT! It’s gum, it’s taxis, it’s Times Square! Yeah!

I got riled up about this because of two other items that floated across my desk recently. One is a news story in the Chicago Tribune describing the accelerating pace of product innovation in gum:

Want to manage your weight, strengthen and whiten your teeth, increase your vitamin intake? Just bored out of your mind? Have some gum.

Candy manufacturers are rolling out gums for all occasions. Some of the gums seem to have been pulled from science fiction, or at least Willy Wonka’s factory.

Kraft Foods’ Stride Shift, for instance, changes flavor while you’re chewing. Trident Vitality, available early next year, contains vitamin C for those who can’t be bothered to eat fruit. Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights, meanwhile, gives dieters a reason to pass on cake, with flavors like chocolate mint chip and Key lime pie.

Gum is stagnating, it seems. What gum needs is a little excitement, something to make it “relevant” to today’s youthful gum chewers. That, according to the Buisness School models, is what consumers want. Not any simple thing like gum with a good texture and a flavor that doesn’t fade too fast or go off. That’s what us cranky oldsters want, evidently, and we don’t chew enough gum to really matter (and by oldster, I refer to anyone over 30, as per the gum marketing people).

Flavor? Texture? That is so twentieth century. These are gums to uplift! To inspire! To motivate! To cure! To indulge! Gum!

And then I came upon a press release from a market research company called NetBase which puts out periodical reports on their proprietary Brand Passion Index for various products, most recently Halloween candy.

I’m starting to catch on: marketing today is all about this  creepy idea that you should have intimate emotional relationships with the stuff you buy and consume. It’s not enough to think the gum tastes just fine. Tools like the Brand Passion Index will “help companies understand not only the intensity of passion consumers have, but more importantly why consumers feel the way they do about the brand.” You should be passionate about your gum. Intensely passionate. And if you’re not, someone wants to find out why, and fix it.

I have nothing against selling stuff. I just don’t like when its done in such a manipulative and cheesy way.

And now, I feel a SOAP BOX coming on. Gum is not life. Passion is not relevant to buying gum or detergent or ball point pens. Genuine passion is about our real relationships and real projects and real goals. If gum owns passion, there’s not much meaning or value left for the real stuff.

So go ahead, chew your gum. Enjoy it. But save your passion for things that really matter.

October 18, 2010 at 10:21 am 1 comment

Get Your Own Tootsie!

Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?

Life Magazine, 1 November 1943

Hey grown ups! Get smart! Do what the kids do: eat Tootsie Rolls!

Tootsie Rolls from the very beginning struggled to be accepted as a candy for adults. When they were launched in the early 1900s, they chose “sophisticated” browns and golds for the wrapping, packaged the penny pieces into larger boxes, and advertised heavily as a treat for all ages. (See my post Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not)

Fact is, kids may love candy, but they don’t have the big bucks. Alas, as you can see can see in this series of ads from the 1940s, Tootsie Roll candies seemed to just naturally roll back into the children’s candy market. And frankly, it’s no surprise. Tootsie Rolls are chewy and a little tough, and the spectacle of an adult gnawing on one of these big sticks of sticky is just a little undignified.

So to stir things up a bit, Tootsie Roll came up with the idea of an epic battle of the generations over control for the nation’s Tootsie Rolls.  In this next ad, things have really gotten out of control, with soldiers stealing Tootsie Rolls out of the mouths of babes:

Life Magazine, 26 October 1942

Did you catch that WARNING at the top? The Adult practice of stealing children’s Tootsie Rolls has grown to a national menace!

It is unclear whether the soldier’s job is to protect children from the “national menace,” or if it is the soldier himself who is the “national menace.” World War Two, the implicit backdrop for this ad, would certainly have been a lot more fun if it was just about wresting Tootsie Rolls out of the wrong hands.

And look at this poor little moppet who lost all her “beeyootiful, chocolate, chewy” Tootsie Rolls to the greedy grownups:

Life Magazine 23 Nov 1942

They brought the Tootsie Rolls for her, and then they ate them all up! No fair!

In all these ads, the adults are shown doing something sneaky or even criminal: they are spying on children, and stealing their treats. This makes the message a little confusing: one one hand, Tootsie is persuading adults that they too should eat Tootsie Rolls because they taste good and give you that “pep.” On the other hand, adults are “stealing” them from children, which seems to imply that the Tootsie Rolls really belong to the children. The ad tells adults to “get your own,” but the only way adults seem to be able to get candy is by pretending it is for children and then gobbling it up themselves. Hmm, with Halloween coming up, that might just sound about right…

Life Magazine 28 Sept 1942

Tootsie Rolls make adults into children, and children into little swaggering adults. This tough guy complains:

Gotta watch those grown ups! They sight a Tootsie, sink same.

Grown ups are naughty, and the kiddies have to keep an eye on them to keep them from swiping the candy. In this  installment, grown ups are depicted as ignorant as well:

Most of those Tootsie swipers don’t even know that Tootsies are pep food!

It’s the kid who knows that Tootsie candy is quick food-energy, while the grown ups only seem to care about the “chocolatety luscious flavor.”

My impression of these ads is that despite the explicit intention to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls, they seem to be reinforcing the message that Tootsie Rolls are really children’s candy. Given the nature of the Tootsie Roll, maybe failure was inevitable. By the 1950s, Tootsie had pretty much given up trying to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls. Ever after, the focus was on selling Tootsies to children directly and on selling Tootsies to adults as treats for children.

Rich in Dextrose for Quick Food Energy: if you’re wondering what all the dextrose excitement was about in these 1940s ads, see my posts on dextrose, candy, and food energy:

  • Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”
  • Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar
  • October 1, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

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