In this post from 2012, I talked about the strange, interconnected history of several companies that had financial difficulties… that ended up being bought by the companies providing the packaging for that product.
For example, Richard S. Reynolds, Sr. – nephew of Richard Joshua Reynolds, of RJ Reynolds tobacco fame – played a big role in the development of Camel, America’s first successful pre-rolled cigarette. After the brand became a hit, Richard S. Reynolds left RJR and started an aluminum foil company, because cigarette and candy companies were big users of foil packaging. One of Richard S. Reynolds’ biggest customers was Eskimo Pie, a foil-wrapped ice cream sandwich. When Eskimo Pie ran in to legal trouble Reynolds bought the company rather than lose such a big customer.
Well, I’ve found another example: Tootsie Rolls!
Tootsie Rolls were created by an Austrian immigrant named Leo Hirshfield in 1907. Hirshfield worked for an outfit called Sweets Company of America, and was trying to come up with a chocolate-flavored candy that was cheaper than actual chocolate and wouldn’t melt in the summer, since air conditioning wasn’t yet common. He named the treat after his daughter Clara, whose nickname was “Tootsie”.
By 1935, the company was on the verge of collapse. This greatly worried Bernard D. Rubin, owner of Joseph Rubin & Sons, the company that made boxes for Tootsie Roll. Sweets Company of America was one of his biggest customers. Rubin obtained a list of shareholders and met with them one by one until he’d bought a majority stake in the company. He subsequently ran the company from 1936 until his death in 1948. His brother William B. Rubin then took over the company, running it until 1962. In that year, the company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries. Also in that year his daughter, Ellen Rubin Gordon, took charge of the company. She still runs it today.
Check out the original article for a fun ride through some strange American business history!