Today In Pop Culture: 120 Years Of Tootsie Rolls

Published on February 23rd, 2016 in: Candy, Today In Pop Culture |

By Jeffery X Martin


What exactly is a Tootsie Roll? It’s chocolate, but why doesn’t it melt unless put under extreme conditions? It isn’t delicate like a caramel, yet it won’t wrench your teeth out of your jaw like a salt water taffy. Could it possibly be alien technology, stretching its wispy tendrils into our candy-loving history?

Nah. That’s silly.

It was 120 years ago today that the Tootsie Roll was invented. The candymaker’s name was Leo Hirschfield, and he named the tiny treat after his daughter. At that time, Tootsie Rolls sold for a penny. They were a gigantic hit with the sugar-sucking public. It was common to see Tootsie Roll trucks, like ice-cream vans, cruising the streets looking for children with pennies to spend on candy.

In 1931, the Tootsie Roll Pop was created. As we all know, the Tootsie Roll Pop is the only reason to learn math. There’s no way to know how many licks it takes to to get to the center of one, but it’s sure fun to count.

Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, did television ads for Tootsie Rolls. Frank Sinatra did too; it’s said that he was such a big fan of the candy that he was buried with some.

During the Korean War, a group of soldiers comprised of Marines, Infantry, British commandos, and South Korean policemen were pinned down for days at the Battle of Chosin. Temperatures were below zero, and they couldn’t even build a fire. Rations were gone, people were dying, and all looked lost. Then, while destroying non-essential equipment, the soldiers discovered boxes of frozen Tootsie Rolls. It was an accident; one of the military codes for mortar rounds was “Tootsie Rolls.” The candy, though, was the only the thing they could eat. The sugar gave them energy enough to make it through two weeks of fighting their way to the sea, where they were rescued.

Also: Tootsie Rolls are certified Kosher. L’chaim.

The Tootsie Roll may have reached the height of its fame in 1994 when the 69 Boyz released their famous song about the candy. “Let me see that Tootsee Roll!” they sang, and thong-wearers and children would wave around pieces of the candy in response, showing their devotion and brand loyalty to the little chocolates.

That still doesn’t explain what the things are made out of. Cocoa, sugar, and skim milk are in the list. There’s also some kind of plastic, maybe, like Silly Putty. I can’t prove that, but I’ve eaten plenty of Tootsie Rolls in my time, and it seems true. The manufacturer pumps out 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day. I’ve only put a small dent in that number but trying to increase that percentage seems like a great idea.

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