On February 23, 1896 Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield introduced the candy that would probably result in more emergency trips to the dentist than any other, the Tootsie Roll, at his New York City sweets shop. He named the confection in honor of his daughter Clara, aka “Tootsie” and not, as urban legend would have it, because of some bizarre foot fetish.
Prior to its introduction most Americans seldom had any kind of chocolate candy because milk chocolate and dark chocolate were inherently unstable, prone to crystallizing over time if they did not melt. Bon-bons were the treats of the rich and spoiled. Most folks got their chocolate fix as the Aztecs did, by drinking cocoa and their sweet tooth satisfied by hard penny candies.
By mixing the cocoa powder with a caramel like syrup base, boiling it down and rolling it into a bar, Hirshfield created a cheap, lasting and portable treat.
It wasn’t until Milton Hershey devised a process to stabilize milk chocolate a few years later that he had to compete with widely available chocolate candy.
In 1931 the company introduced the Tootsie Pop, cheap treat just the ticket for Depression era cash strapped customers. The durability of the original Tootsie Roll caused it to be included in the rations of World War II GIs.
Today, faced with competition from endless chocolate bars, the full size Tootsie Roll has faded from many candy counters. But the personal size and mini versions in bags are ubiquitous as inexpensive Halloween candy and for kid’s birthday party treat bags. And they will still pull a filling out of a molar in a heartbeat.