Tootsie Rolls, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Abba Zabba, Easter Peeps and Ring Pops are all iconic American candies, but did you know they were all created by Jewish people? Over a century ago, most candies were generic penny candy you could pick out of a barrel or in a jar at your local five and dime. Most of these sweets were created and distributed by Jewish immigrants who made the inexpensive confections in their homes. The old adage that “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” may sound great, but many a turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant would beg to differ. Most Jewish immigrants came to America with nothing but the shirt on their back and a wealth of entrepreneurial spirit, so many were drawn to selling candy because the ingredients were inexpensive and they could use trial and error to perfect their recipes without wasting large amounts of money on costly experimentation.
The Tootsie Roll was created by Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield who opened a candy store in New York City in 1896. His most successful penny candy was a chewy cross between fudge and caramel that he named after his daughter Clara, affectionately known as “Tootsie.” Today, the company is still ran by Hirshfield’s descendants and Tootsie Roll Industries churns out over 62 million of these sweet little barrels of joy every day!
Sam Born arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 1910 and invented the process for creating the hard chocolate coating on Eskimo Pies, a machine that inserts sticks into lollipops and a chocolate-sprinkle producing machine that creates Jimmies (named after the machine’s operator). Born, along with his brothers-in-law Irv and Jack Shaffer, would go on to create Mike and Ike candies, Hot Tamales and Easter Peeps. Other notable Jewish confectioners include Abraham, Ira, Philip and Joseph Shorin whose company, Topps, led to the creation of Topps Baseball Cards, Ring Pops, Push Pops, Bazooka Bubble Gum and comic book icon Bazooka Joe.
Today, due to the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants from Old World Europe, prominent Jewish families have become central to the candy trade. Not only has this resulted in world-recognized brands and generations of wealth, but millions and millions of happy children and more than a few unnecessary visits to the dentist.