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It was February 23, 1896, when Leo Hirschfield opened his shop. It was in New York City. He was a candymaker. He was from Austria. Never heard of him? You’ve surely heard of his work.
Here’s the story. It was in that shop Hirschfield came up with the Tootsie Roll. It is one of the twentieth century’s classic candies. Then he merged with Stern & Saalberg Co. They were going to make the candies on a bigger scale. They did this after seeing how popular his candy was.
The wax-paper-wrapped sweet was made in NYC beginning in 1905. It was the first candy to solve two sugary issues. It had a chocolatey taste. But it didn’t melt. And it was individually wrapped.
This was at a time before there was A/C. And there were no refrigerators. Candy-sellers spent the hot summers trying to sell candies like taffy and marshmallows. They could stand some heat without melting. But chocolate was a different story. It was nothing but a sticky mess in the summer weather.
“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.” That's according to “Candy Professor” Samira Kawash. She wrote a book about the history of candy.
The patent linked with the Tootsie Roll-making process tells how Hirschfield made that hard-but-not-too-hard texture. The Tootsie Roll is the same today.
The Tootsie Roll is a pulled candy. Most pulled candies are “light and porous” after being made. But the Tootsie Roll was baked at a low temperature. It was baked for about two hours. Afterwards it would be shaped. Then it was packaged. The idea was to give the treat “a peculiar mellow consistency.” The patent reads that the texture would help it maintain its shape. It would also keep it from melting.
The Tootsie Roll wasn’t that chocolatey. Its recipe is pretty much the same today. But say you had a craving. It was better than anything else for sale. And it was cheap. This was an important factor in helping candy growth. The Tootsie Pop came along in the early 1930s. It quickly became a Depression-era favorite. This is according to Retroland.
Then WWII happened. Food historians remember the war as a turning point in the history of processed food. The Tootsie Roll was right there on the front lines. This gave the candy company an early form of a government contract. This is according to the Dodge Legal Group. It kept them going while the war effort shut down many other sweet makers. It also helped confirm Americans love for the candy.
The Tootsie Pop had its moment on early television. This was after the war. It had a well-known ad. It featured Mr. Owl and friends.
The official Tootsie Roll website says this is 1970 ad was the first to ask the “How Many Licks” question. But by far it was not the last.
The candy is still around today. Many other candies made around the same time have fallen out of style. One such candy was Bromangelon Jelly Powder. “Jelly desserts were all the rage at the turn of the century,” writes Kawash. She wrote this in a separate piece. “Jell-O is the only one we remember. But around 1900 you could have your pick of such temptations as Jellycon, Tryphora and Bro-Man-Gel-On.”
Kawash has done a lot of research. She thinks that Hirschfield may have been working for the Stern & Saalberg company well before the invention of his famous candy. She also thinks he invented Bro-Man-Gel-On/Bromangelon.
A four-syllable name for “Jello”? No wonder it didn’t stick.