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.
A well-known “letter” has been making its rounds for many decades which was supposedly written by a young female college student to her parents, updating them on the recent events that had befallen her. While the letter is fictitious, it certainly encourages us to keep perspective when hearing bad news concerning loved ones. A (modified) form of the letter is as follows:
Dear Mother and Dad:
It has been three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down, okay.
Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed by now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those headaches once a day.
Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump was witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Dept. and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital and since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.
Yes, mother and dad, I am pregnant. I know how very much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am now taking daily.
I know you will welcome him into the family with open arms. He is kind and although not well educated, he is ambitious. Although he is of a different race and religion than ours, I know that your oft-expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by the fact that his heritage and religion are different than ours. I am sure you will love him as I do. His family background is good too, for although I’ll need to learn my place when I visit, I am told his father is one of the most respected men in his village and is often called upon to help keep order when those from his community step out of line.
Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you there was no dormitory fire; I did not have a concussion or a skull fracture; I was not in the hospital; I am not pregnant; I am not engaged. I do not have a communicable disease, and I am not dating someone from a culture which is oppressive to women. However, I am getting a D in sociology and an F in science; and I wanted you to see these marks in proper perspective.
Your loving daughter,
It is with the heart of this letter in mind I present a copy of a recent rather-lengthy text my wife and I sent to our young daughters:
As you know, the summer season is nearly upon us and your annual quest to find swimsuits your mama and I are willing (if even reluctantly) to allow you to wear in public is upon us. We know this is about as challenging and frustrating as finding a “mama acceptable” evergreen tree at the start of each Christmas season. Need I say more? However, this year, as your loving parents, we’ve decided to alleviate your stress by purchasing matching suits for all of you. While they have yet to arrive, we were able to download a picture of the ad for the style we selected from the online catalog at AuntieAmysAuspiciousApparel.com:
Okay, we didn’t purchase swimsuits for each of you, but we’re considering doing so next year. Please keep the above in mind as you begin your quest. I’m sure we’ll be pleased with your choices.
Mom and Dad
PS A special thank-you goes out to the Public Ledger, Philadelphia, June 15, 1893, for this most wonderful advertisement. It’s a bit unsettling to note the ad appears in an issue containing an article on Lizzie Borden.
Full Disclosure: My wife and I are blessed to have 5 daughters with whom we never need to fight this battle. Thank you!