The “Tootsie Roll” is 119 years old this year (2015). Who invented it? How did it get its name? The story goes something like this. Leo Hirschfeld (other sources spell his name Hirschfield) was an Austrian immigrant who came to the United States in 1884, arriving in New York City with very little money and a set of skills that set him apart from many other immigrants: he was a candy maker. His father had been a confectioner in Austria so Leo landed in America with some family recipes and a desire to be a success.
He settled in Brooklyn, opened up a tiny candy shop, and proceeded to make a living for himself. His candy shop did not sell much chocolate, if any, because it was still quite expensive and available only to those who could afford it. Leo’s shop specialized in hard candies and penny candies of all sorts, catering to the tastes and budgets of neighboring children and their families.
During the ensuing years he got married and began raising a family. In 1891 his favorite child was born, a daughter named Clara. As Clara grew up she began to realize how fortunate (insert “cool,” “neat” or any other word you wish here) she was to have a dad who was a candy maker. So in 1895-1896, the following scenario played out many times as Leo Hirschfeld walked down the street toward his home after a day of work at his candy shop.
IMPORTANT DATES AND FUN FACTS IN TOOTSIE ROLL HISTORY:
Today, Tootsie Roll Industries produces approximately 64 million Tootsie Rolls per day, most of them at their main manufacturing plant in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1931, during the Depression, the company introduced “Tootsie Pops.” We know them today as “Tootsie Roll Pops.” They are the world’s best-selling “lollipop.” (Some candy historians would object to classifying the Tootsie Roll Pop as a “lollipop.” But, that is another story.)
Early 1950s Tootsie Roll Pop commercial.
Tootsie Rolls were included in the ration packs of American soldiers during the Korean War. This helped popularize the candy even more after the conflict was concluded.
The Tootsie Roll began advertising on TV during the 1950s.
1970s Tootsie Roll TV commercial.
In 2009 Tootsie Rolls were certified as a kosher food product by the Orthodox Union.
Tootsie Roll Industries has sales of nearly $500 million per year and is recognized as one of the world’s largest candy producers.
Tootsie Roll International has a record of replying to all letters sent to it by children.
During the 1970s Tootsie Roll Pops got a commercial boost because of a hit TV show, “Kojak.” The main character, Detective Kojak, unwrapped and ate a Tootsie Roll Pop whenever he solved a crime
In 1970, in a TV ad, the question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” was first asked. The animated character of Mr. Owl asked this still pondered question. Is there an answer? (More on this later.)
Tootsie Roll Industries produces 22 of the most popular candies in the U.S., including (besides Tootsie Rolls) Andes Mints, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Babies, Razzles, Junior Mints, Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum, DOTS, Blow Pops, and the Charleston Chew Candy Bar.
END OF FUN FACTS, BUT WHAT ABOUT “THE” QUESTION?
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? According to my research, I have uncovered numbers ranging anywhere from 144 to 1277 licks as necessary to accomplish the feat. Variables include whether the person is licking in one spot or spinning the pop, the amount of saliva in the mouth, the time/duration of the lick, the texture of the individual tongue, the pressure exerted during the lick, the temperature of the pop itself,… as the above commercial suggests,the world may never know.
During the mid-1930s a man named Philip Silverstein created a new candy, square shaped, that included Brazil nuts, cashews and raisins. He named it after his nickname for his daughter, who was at the time a “Chunky” baby. Thus, the “Chunky Bar” was born. That’s what these two candies have in common. They were each named after the nickname each man had for his daughter.