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

  • jackiek-orv
    2/21/2018 - 11:39 a.m.

    people were able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls during the summer months because it was a sweet treat that didn't melt in the summer sun.

  • nylao-orv
    2/21/2018 - 02:40 p.m.

    It is hard to believe how old tootsie pops are. In 1905 they began production. Interesting how it became a depression era favorite. I think it is awesome that people still buy these"today. Overall very interesting article.

  • JaedynN-par
    2/26/2018 - 09:52 a.m.

    People really enjoyed Tootsie Rolls because most candy that was or tasted like chocolate melted easily. Tootsie Rolls had that chocolate flavor yet never melted, which made them so popular.

  • TriniteeS-par
    4/09/2018 - 09:48 a.m.

    I did not know that the Tootsie Rolls have been around for that long. I was surprised that they were a depression era's favorite. It's also cool that people still buy them today.

  • nylao-orv
    4/20/2018 - 01:13 p.m.

    Tootsie Rolls were good to sell during the hot summmer months because Tootsie Rolls weren't completely chocolate and could stand some heat before A/C's and refrigerators were invented.

  • JalenM-par1
    5/22/2018 - 09:54 a.m.

    good to know more about history of tootsie rolls

  • TorresA-dec
    9/24/2018 - 01:15 p.m.

    I did not know he started the company On February 23, 1896

  • HayleeA-dec
    9/24/2018 - 01:22 p.m.

    For Tootsie Rolls being a energy bar in the WWII is a good idea because it give’s you the sweetness from the Tootsie Roll and give’s them a little bit of sweet to fight! Plus it also give’s them a little snack to eat but, at the same time it gives you energy!

  • MadisonT-dec
    10/01/2018 - 09:35 a.m.

    People were able to enjoy Tootsie Rolls during the summer months because it did not melt.

  • EmmaP-sto1
    10/04/2018 - 11:43 a.m.

    Because they could eat the chocolate flavored candy without it being a sticky mess.

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