According to Tootsie Rolls' official website, Leo Hirschfield invented the sweet treat in 1896, and he named the candy after his nickname for his 5-year-old daughter Clara. He sold them out of his Brooklyn shop for only one penny each until he merged, a few years later, with candy corporation Stern and Staalberg to distribute the treat to a wider market. Now, scholars are disputing whether this story is true or not.
Samira Kawash, a former professor at Rutgers University, investigated Tootsie Rolls' origin only to discover that the timeline of events is more muddled than the website makes it seem. According to her findings, Mr. Hirschfield was working for Stern and Staalberg long before the "merger" reportedly occurred. He then applied for a patent in 1907 to trade mark Tootsie Rolls' texture, which would make the story of the candy being invented in 1896 bogus.
Additionally, Kawash discovered that Hirschfield invented an early recipe for gelatin that Stern and Staalberg manufactured. The advertisements for the 'Bromangelon' gelatin featured the character "Tattling Tootsie." So, before Clara was the face of Tootsie Rolls, Kawash writes in her blog "...she did her time as the child spokes-model for fruity gelatin."
While the history of the 120-year old Tootsie Roll may be a bit inconsistent, there's one thing that's certain: It will always be one of our favorite sweets.