February 23: Tootsie Rolls

250px-tootsie_rollsTootsie Rolls were first offered for sale on this day in 1896 by Leo Hirshfield, an Austrian-born confectioner with a shop in New York City. His Jewish identity has been a matter of dispute, but the company he founded definitely passed into Jewish hands by 1912 and was eventually manufacturing close to fifty million Tootsie Rolls per day, as well as Charms, Junior Mints, Mason Dots, Blow Pops, Sugar Daddy, Dubble Bubble bubble gum, and numerous other candy brands. Other Jews active in the candy business were Victor Bonomo (who mass-marketed his father’s Turkish Taffy in the 1950s), Dave Goldenberg (Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, 1917), Sam Born and his sons (Mike and Ike and the very non-kosher marshmallow Peeps), and Abraham, Ira, Philips and Joseph Shorin (Topps and Bazooka bubble gums, 1938-1945) — all of whom helped to create a lively trade for dentists worldwide.

“The American Jewish story starts with Ellis Island, and the candy store in the Bronx.”
—Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg

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Comments (1)

  1. Once again*, Larry extols Jewish “captains of industry” without mentioning the unions that organized the workers in their factories. By 1892, the Journeymen Bakers and Confectioners International Union had at least 155 locals. In 1904, the union’s name was changed to Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of the AF of L. Surely, there were many Jews in the leadership of those unions, especially in New York.

    *As in his article on the toy and novelty industry in the 3-volume anthology “Jews and American Popular Culture.”

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