Candy Named for Real People

I don't know about you, but when I'm jonesing for something sugary at work around 3 p.m. (that's usually about when I hit my wall), the last thing I'm thinking about as I'm jamming my quarters into the machine is, "I wonder what the history behind the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is. How did it come to be? And who invented it?"

But in case you are thinking that, here are seven candies that you will no longer have to wonder about. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm suddenly craving something highly caloric and bad for me.

Oh Henry! Bar

Lots of people think the Oh Henry! bar was named for author O. Henry, but the bar was actually named for its creator, Tom Henry. He ran the Peerless candy factory in Kansas and created the famous bar made of fudge, peanut and caramel in 1919. He cleverly called it the Tom Henry bar.

When the rights to the Tom Henry bar were bought out in 1920, they new company renamed it the Oh Henry! as part of a publicity stunt. People were curious about bumper stickers and ads simply reading "Oh Henry!" and sales spiked as they bought the bars to find out what the deal was. Tom Henry's family still runs a candy company in Kansas and sell the "Momma Henry" bar.

However, Hershey tells a different story on their Canadian website (although Oh Henry! is produced Hershey, Nestle owns it. Weird, no?): George H. Williamson made the candy originally and supposedly named the bar after boy who used to walk through the candy factory to flirt with the girls working there. When the girls needed something or had an errand for the boy, they would call, "Oh Henry!" and Henry would come running. I think this sounds a lot like a publicity story, myself, but perhaps I'm cynical.

Baby Ruth

Likewise, there are a couple of different tales as to where the Baby Ruth name came from. As you've probably noticed, it sounds suspiciously like the name of a certain famous baseball player.

But the Curtiss Candy Company claims they never intended it that way, that the bar was named for Ruth Cleveland. Ruth was born between her dad's two terms as president and the nation was indeed crazy for her. But the Baby Ruth bar came out in 1921, and Ruth Cleveland died in 1904 at the age of 12. Ruth-mania had definitely subsided by the time the Baby Ruth bar came out.

Snopes says that the rumor that the bar was named for a baby is bunk. It seems more likely that the company was capitalizing on Ruth's name without having to pay him for the honor. They say that Ruth wasn't even well-known in 1921 and it would have been silly to name a candy bar after an obscure slugger, but Ruth had been playing the major and minor leagues since 1914 and by 1921, he had already thrown a shutout in a World Series game, established himself as a power hitter, been involved in a highly-publicized salary feud, recorded a batting average that wouldn't be broken until 2001, and had been traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees.

But I'll let you decide - was the Baby Ruth named for Ruth Cleveland or George Herman "Babe" Ruth?

Tootsie Roll and Tootsie Pop

This one is a lot easier to explain - no controversy here. Leo Hirshfield opened his candy business in New York City in 1896. He invented a candy with the taste of chocolate, but it didn't melt in the heat like regular chocolate.

Another bonus: it was cheaper than real chocolate. He named the product after his daughter, Clara, whom he called Tootsie.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces

Harry Burnett Reese was a candy maker who made "penny cups" - peanut butter cups that sold for a penny each - in his basement in the mid '20s. He made an assortment of candy, actually, but when the Great Depression hit, he ceased production on his other products and concentrated on the popular peanut butter cups. After his death in 1957, the Reese empire was sold to Hershey for $23.5 million.

Heath Bar

In 1913, a teacher by the name of L.S. Heath bought a sweet shop for his two sons, thinking it would be a good business venture for them. The business - a combination candy store, manufacturer and ice cream parlor, was a big hit. (Photo: kahl4 [Flickr])

The story goes that they somehow got a toffee recipe from a traveling salesman and started selling it as "Heath English Toffee - America's Finest." By 1928, their dad owned a dairy, so the brothers started offering their toffee bars on the same order form as milk and cheese - customers could have the confection delivered right to their doorsteps, no muss, no fuss.

The popularity only increased when it was considered to be a good value during the Depression, and the Heath Bar's place in history was cemented when the U.S. Army bought $175,000 worth to include in the soldier's rations during WWII (the bar had a very long shelf life). Amidst family feuds, the Heaths sold the company in 1989 and it was then acquired by Hershey in 1996.

Hershey Bar, Hershey's Kisses

Of course, the Hershey company and its namesake products are named after the company's founder, Milton Hershey.

At first, though, the Hershey Chocolate Company was just a part of his first successful candy business, the Lancaster Caramel Company. He sold it for $1 million in 1900 (an astronomical sum in those days), but kept the Hershey Chocolate Company for himself.

The Hershey bar was first produced in 1894 and Kisses showed up in 1907, likely a copycat of Wilbur Buds, produced by the competing Wilbur Chocolate Company since 1893.

Clark Bar

Now owned by NECCO, the Clark Bar was named for its original owner and inventor, David L. Clark. Although the D.L. Clark Company had been around since 1886, it really hit paydirt in 1917 with the Clark Bar, the first "combination bar" that combined multiple confections in one product. The D.L. Clark Company had success not just with the Clark Bar, but also with Zagnut. (Photo: gregg_koenig [Flick])

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I loved Heath bars while growing up in Chicago in the 30's and 40's. My favorite Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors are the Heath Bar crunch combination's. I can't think of any better tasting than Coffee Heath Bar Crunch!
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When I was a kid, to have a candy bar was such a treat! I believe everytime I eat a chocolate bar, those memories of childhood come rushing back. With our down-turned economy, perhaps everyone should buy their favorite candy bar when they are filling sad, and lift their spirits:)
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