Assortment of Tootsie Pop lollipops

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the Tootsie Pop, with its hard shell coating and chewy chocolate interior, is a classic American candy. It’s slightly ironic that Tootsie Pops were partly born out of the imagination of the Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield, who invented Tootsie Roll Industries’ signature chocolate nougat in 1896 in Brooklyn, New York (via Snack History). But Tootsie Pops are also so much more than Toostie Rolls’ younger siblings.

Invented in 1931, their popularity soared during the Great Depression because they were tasty and inexpensive. By 1970, the candy product was responsible for inspiring one of the most iconic TV commercials ever. Over half a century later, few are likely to forget the infamous question: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? That ad spot has certainly been a driving factor in the lollipops’ enduring popularity. As it turns out, there’s more to Tootsie Pops than their wise-cracking owl mascot and supposedly redeemable candy wrappers. Here’s everything you need to know about the world-famous lollipop candy.

Its inventor’s daughter inspired the Tootsie Pop

Bag of Tootsie Pop minis

The iconic hard-shell lollipop and its chewy center first came onto the scene in 1931, according to the company website. It was invented by Luke Weisgram, an employee at the then-named Sweets Company of America. He and his colleagues were asked to pitch ideas for a new candy at a meeting. The idea "popped" into his head because he had licked his daughter’s lollipop while chewing a chocolate Tootsie Roll at the same time. He found the combined flavors were a tasty surprise. The board of the company liked Weisgram’s candy idea so much they agreed to put it into production, and so the Tootsie Pop was born and immediately became a beloved American classic. The company where Weisgram worked would later change its name to Tootsie Roll Industries (via Snack History).

Weisgram wasn’t the only company worker to find inspiration in his daughter. Tootsie Roll inventor Leo Hirshfield opened a candy business in 1896 in Brooklyn, New York, and "Tootsie" was Hirshfield’s nickname for his 5-year-old-daughter Clara. Some historians believe the wholesome-sounding origin story might be little more than clever marketing. According to a Time report, a professor at Rutgers University posited that Hirshfield had been an employee at candymaker Stern & Staalberg and that the company fabricated the story about Tootsie Roll’s humble origins. Stern & Staalberg started marketing the candy in 1909, a year after Hirshfield was awarded a patent for Tootsie Rolls.

The first Tootsie Pop flavor was chocolate

Pieces of a broken chocolate bar

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first flavor of Tootsie Pop to be made was chocolate, since the Tootsie Roll hidden in the center of each lollipop was also chocolate-flavored and already a popular treat among American consumers (via Snack History). Double chocolate turned out to be double tasty. But eventually, the candy maker debuted other flavors, too, most notably cherry, orange, grape, and raspberry, according to the company website. Today, Tootsie Roll Industries continues to come out with new flavors. The candy company has since released seasonal flavors as well, such as candy cane and pumpkin-flavored Tootsie Pops.

In addition to new flavors, different versions of Tootsie Pops have been released over the years like Tootsie Pop Miniatures, smaller versions of the classic lollipop. The miniatures typically come in a bag of assorted flavors. Fans can also enjoy Tootsie Pop Drops — lollipops minus the sticks, so you can pop them into your mouth.

Tootsie Roll factory
A young boy with his mouth open to lick a lollipop
Cartoon boy holding a lollipop and an owl
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Assortment of Tootsie Rolls lollipops
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A wooden lollipop holder