Tootsie Rolls were WWII energy bars Tootsie Rolls contain small amounts of cocoa and also an ingredient you might not expect—orange extract. (Matanya/Wikimedia Commons/Apium/flickr)
Tootsie Rolls were WWII energy bars
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On February 23, 1896, a candymaker from Austria named Leo Hirschfield opened his shop in New York City. Never heard of him? You’ve definitely heard of his work.

As the story goes, in that shop Hirschfield came up with the humble Tootsie Roll. It is one of the twentieth century’s iconic candies. Not long after, he merged with Stern & Saalberg Co. to produce the candies on a bigger scale. They did this after seeing how popular his creation was.

The wax-paper-wrapped sweet, produced in NYC beginning in 1905, was the first candy to solve two confectionery issues.  Although it had a chocolatey taste, the penny candy didn’t melt, and it was individually wrapped.  

Before A/C and refrigerators, candy-sellers spent the hot summers trying to sell candies like taffy and marshmallows. They could stand some heat without melting. Chocolate, on the other hand, 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,” writes “Candy Professor” Samira Kawash, who also authored a book about the history of candy.

The patent associated with the Tootsie Roll-making process describes how Hirschfield achieved that hard-but-not-too-hard texture that still characterizes the Tootsie Roll today. Most pulled candies (which the Tootsie Roll is) are “light and porous” after being made, the patent reads. But the Tootsie Roll was baked at a low temperature for about two hours. Afterwards it would be shaped and packaged. The idea was to give the treat “a peculiar mellow consistency” the patent reads, that would help it maintain its shape and not melt.

The Tootsie Roll, whose recipe is basically the same today, wasn’t that chocolatey. But if you had a craving, it was better than anything else on the market. And it was cheap, an important factor in encouraging candy growth. When the Tootsie Pop came along in the early 1930s, writes Retroland, it quickly became a Depression-era favorite.

Then WWII happened. Food historians remember that conflict as a watershed moment in the history of processed food. The Tootsie Roll (like other nominally chocolate-flavored rations) was right there on the front lines. This gave the candy company an early form of a government contract, writes the Dodge Legal Group, and kept them manufacturing while the war effort shut down many other confectionaries. It also helped cement American affection for the candy.

After the war, the Tootsie Pop had its moment on early television with an iconic advertisement. 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 not the last.

The candy is still around today, even though many other candies invented around the same time have fallen out of style. One such was Bromangelon Jelly Powder. “Jelly desserts were all the rage at the turn of the century,” writes Kawash 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.”

Based on her investigations, Kawash believes that Hirschfield may have been working for the Stern & Saalberg company well before the invention of his signature candy. And she believes that he also invented Bro-Man-Gel-On/Bromangelon.

A four-syllable name for “Jello”? No wonder it didn’t stick.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were people able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls during the summer months?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (49)
  • abbyt-lew1
    1/23/2018 - 12:47 p.m.

    I think that the tootsie roll is a very good candy. It's very interesting to know that it has been around for such a long time. Also it's neat to know that it became a depression era favorite, and that it helped people in world war 2.

  • peytonm-lew
    1/23/2018 - 12:51 p.m.

    This article was very informing. A good candy that's been around for over 100 years and the recipe is almost the same it's crazy. And I have always liked Tootsie Rolls.

  • kinniel-orv
    1/23/2018 - 03:05 p.m.

    How did they get the candy made at such a time like this and the years the war was going on? My 2nd favorite CHOCLATE candy is a tootsie rolls. This is hard to believe that people in the war had these has energy bars.

  • vinnya2
    2/06/2018 - 01:56 p.m.

    People were able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls during the summer months because it's chocolate flavor made it unique from other summer candies available during that time period.

  • taylors-123456794
    2/06/2018 - 01:58 p.m.

    The Tootsie Roll is a classic candy, even if I personally don't care for them. I think the best thing about this sweet is it could do what other chocolate candies at the time couldn't, it could be sold in the summer time. Way before the first A/C or things like it, no shop owner could ever sell a chocolate candy in the summer because the fact that chocolate melts. But the magic that is the Tootsie Roll is made that most perfect way, so it can be enjoyed all year around including summertime. So you get they chocolate taste, without it melting.

  • connery-
    2/06/2018 - 01:59 p.m.

    People are able to enjoy the Tootsie Rolls during the summer months because the candy is made to withstand the heat and not melt in the sun.

  • thomasb-4
    2/06/2018 - 02:00 p.m.

    People were able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls durning the summer because the Tootsie Rolls didn't melt fast. This was great because back in the early 1900's there was no ac or refrigerator.

  • kendallo-
    2/06/2018 - 02:01 p.m.

    People were able to enjoy the Tootsie Rools in the summer months because they didn’t melt and people liked to eat them in the summer because they didn’t have a candy flavor like it in the summer. People also liked to eat the Tootsie Roll in the summer because the chocolate taste was so unique because people normally have sweet fruity flavors if they wanted some candy to eat and the chocolate people liked to have.

  • ethanh-2015
    2/06/2018 - 02:05 p.m.

    People were able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls during the summer months because unlike Taffy and Marshmallows Tootsie Rolls didn't melt. While the candy could take on some heat this helped the candy get sold in the summer months unlike the candy that would melt very easy. In World War II if the army was out for along time this was a small snack that could be taken that wouldn't melt for along time.

  • ChadO-par
    2/07/2018 - 09:50 a.m.

    The is a interesting story of the Tootsie Roll. I tells how it spread like wildfire during the war.

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