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February 23: Tootsie Rolls

Lawrence Bush
February 23, 2010

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

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.