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Leo Hirshfield and the Tootsie Roll

February 23, 2018

According to Tootsie Roll Industries company lore, Tootsie Rolls were first offered for sale on this date in 1896 at a candy shop in New York City at a price of one penny. (For a version that disputes this accounting, click here.) The Tootsie Roll was created by Leo Hirshfield (or Hirschfeld, pictured left), an Austrian-born confectioner who had immigrated to the United States in 1884. It was named after his daughter, Clara, whose nickname was “Tootsie.” The company that manufactured and mass-marketed the candy, Stern & Saalberg, was also in Jewish hands, owned by Julius Stern and Jacob Saalberg. Renamed “The Sweets Company of America” in 1917 and then “Tootsie Roll Industries” in 1966, they would eventually manufacture over sixty million Tootsie Rolls per day, as well as Mason Dots, Blow Pops, Sugar Daddy, Dubble Bubble bubble gum, and other candy brands. Sadly, Hirshfield’s life would end in suicide after an apparent falling-out with the company, followed by a failed independent business venture. Many other Jews were active in the candy business, including 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, Philip, and Joseph Shorin (Topps and Bazooka bubble gums, 1938-1945).

“[Hirshfield was] an inventor, of never-before imagined candies and confections and machines as well. The U.S. Patent Office awarded one patent to [him] in December 1894 and two more in July of 1895: US Patent 530,417 for a machine for depositing confectionery into molds, U.S. Patent 543,733 for a bonbon dipping machine, and U.S. Patent 543,744 which describes a novel fork for dipping bonbons.”
—Samira Kawash at the Candy Professor blog