Halloween Candy Made Here: The Tootsie Roll

Wild Cherry Tootsie Pop, circa 1970. Photo by JasonLiebig, courtesy flickr.com

This week, we thought we’d take a cavity-taunting diversion through standby Halloween candies with a New York past. We were first befuddled to learn we have no stake in Baby Ruth or the 5th Avenue bar, but think we’ve found some goodies that’ll keep you in local spirits this season. Join us, fellow sweet-toothers!

First, up: The Tootsie Roll. The pseudo-chocolatey treat often ends up growing stale, rolling along the bottom of plastic pumpkins and pillow cases in favor of something, well, a little more exciting. So why do we always feel obliged to pick some up for yearly give-outs? Maybe the nostalgia, or the cutesy name…affinity for a certain old Dustin Hoffman movie? Perhaps the love-hate sticky feeling along our gums that no other candy can provide. Here’s something: it’s New York-born. Austrian expat Leo Hirshfield started the biz in his tiny New York City shop in 1896 and sweetly named the candy after his daughter, Clara “Tootsie” Hirshfield.

The original formula is admirable, too — it was created as an alternative to chocolate, which wouldn’t melt — though, we wondered who would trade any piece of cocoa for a Tootsie. Here’s who: Before it became a Halloween staple, like many native candies we’re researching for you this week, the Tootsie Roll was a product of a war. Because it could withstand the heat of battle, it was a standard ration for American soldiers during World War II, and the off-shoot Tootsie Pop (cue the owl!) was a cheap treat for Dust Bowl refugees during the Depression. A sweet little Tootsie to last a long journey? Now that’s something we can get behind.

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