The history of the origin of the name of the “Baby Ruth” candy bar by the Curtis Candy Company is interesting, brought to light recently with our finding the “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated” issue of Jan. 5, 1893 . The full front page is an illustration captioned: “Baby Ruth and Her Mother” being the child of President Grover Cleveland. This is the person for whom the “Baby Ruth” candy bar was named, not Babe Ruth the famous baseball star as was popularly though. And the story behind the name is interesting.
In Chicago in 1921 Otto Schnering had a turnaround plan for his Curtis Candy Company. He reformulated his “Kandy Kake” brand confection—a conglomeration of milk chocolate, peanuts and a pudding center “richer than marshmallow, fluffier than nougat, better than either of them”—into a chocolate-covered candy bar with peanuts, caramel and nougat. Along with the new recipe came a new name—Baby Ruth. At first glance, it seemed clear that Schnering had taken advantage of the home run king’s well-known name and tweaked it by one letter in order to avoid paying the “Sultan of Swat” any royalties.
Perhaps because of its perceived connection to the Yankee slugger, Baby Ruth was a big success. By 1926, sales of the candy bar totaled $1 million a month, and the company’s candy-making facilities were the largest of their kind in the world.
In 1926, Ruth decided to enter the candy business himself and licensed his name to the George H. Ruth Candy Company, which sought to register “Ruth’s Home Run Candy” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Wrappers showed a head shot of a smiling Ruth in his uniform along with the note “Babe Ruth’s Own Candy.” The Curtiss Candy Company sued for copyright infringement and claimed that the candy bar had not been named after the baseball star, but Ruth Cleveland, eldest daughter of President Grover Cleveland. The explanation seemed odd given that the girl nicknamed “Baby Ruth” by the press had been born in 1891, three decades before the introduction of the candy bar. By 1921, not only was she not a baby, she wasn’t even alive, having died of diphtheria in 1904. Newspapers and the American public paid close attention to “Baby Ruth” after her father returned to the White House in 1893 for his second presidential term, but the Clevelands fiercely protected their daughter’s privacy and refused repeated requests by American newspapers to take her photograph. Few Americans ever knew what “Baby Ruth” looked like. By 1921, Babe Ruth was a household name while “Baby Ruth,” who died 17 years beforehand, was an historical footnote. (credit www.history.com)
Given the above, it is curious that this image of Baby Ruth Cleveland appeared on the front page of this very popular illustrated newspaper. Perhaps it is the only image of her in a newspaper.