Tootsie Roll CEO dies, still working at 95

Human Interest News   —   Posted on January 26, 2015

Melvin Gordon, CEO of Tootsie Roll Industries, and his wife, Ellen, at the Candy Expo at Chicago’s McCormick Place, May 14, 2003.

Tootsie Roll CEO dies, still working at 95

Melvin Gordon, who led Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. for more than five decades, has died at age 95.

Gordon, the company’s chairman and CEO, died Tuesday in Boston after a brief illness, said Brooke Vane, a spokeswoman for the company’s public relations firm. Gordon ran the Chicago-based confectioner for 53 years, overseeing the manufacture of 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day and other favorites including Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Tootsie Pops.

Gordon worked a full schedule until last month, the company said.

He celebrated the Tootsie Roll’s 100th anniversary in 1996 by touring the Chicago factory with an Associated Press reporter. He scooped up one of the warm, gooey candies from the assembly line and tasted it, saying: “There’s nothing like a hot Tootsie Roll.”

He boasted that Tootsie Rolls were almost indestructible.

“Nothing can happen to a Tootsie Roll. We have some that were made in 1938 that we still eat,” Gordon told the AP in 1996. “If you can’t bite it when it’s that old, you certainly can lick it.”

Tootsie Rolls were invented in 1896 by New York City candy maker Leo Hirshfield, who named it for his 5-year-old daughter, Clara, his little Tootsie.

Tootsie Pops, which are lollipops with Tootsie Roll centers, have been around for more than 80 years. A 1970 TV commercial posed the question: “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” The company says on its website that it’s received 20,000 letters from children claiming to have solved the mystery, and the gimmick has migrated to social media, where a bespectacled character named Mr. Owl tweets the question.

Tootsie Roll has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1922. Gordon married into the business in 1950 when he wed Ellen Rubin, whose father, William Rubin, was president of Sweets Co. Of America. Gordon changed the company’s name to Tootsie Roll in 1966.

Gordon’s wife of 65 years, Ellen Gordon, has been named chairman and CEO by its board, the company said Wednesday. She has been company president and chief operating officer.

“Melvin’s life represented the very highest values in business, wisdom, generosity, and integrity. Tootsie Roll has seen great growth and success during his time as Chairman,” Ellen Gordon said in a statement.

lincolnAbraham Lincoln’s hair sold at auction for $25,000

A lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair has sold at a Dallas auction for $25,000.

The lock of hair was among about 300 items that belonged to Fort Worth, Texas history buff Donald Dow and is considered one of the best private Lincoln memorabilia collections known to exist, according to Heritage Auction officials.

The identities of buyers were not available.

Dow, a late Fort Worth art gallery owner, built the collection over five decades, beginning in 1963 with the purchase of a box of books, according to his son Greg Dow, who is selling the collection. The elder Dow died in 2009.

“He started collecting because of his interest in the Civil War and military history,” Greg Dow said before the auction. “But then he became interested in Lincoln and the assassination.”

The lock of hair was snipped by Joseph Barnes, the Surgeon General, shortly after Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in Washington on Good Friday 1865.  He died the next day.

The Dow collection fetched $803,889 in total at the auction, double what had been expected.

Other items included a letter by Booth, which went for $30,000, while a collector paid $6,000 for clipping of bloodstained linen taken from Lincoln’s death bed.

Booth’s arrest warrant was sold for $21,250 and a set of four paintings said to be displaying Booth’s mummified remains were bought for $30,000.

“The public was so disgusted by Booth’s atrocity that most all letters, signatures and documents mentioning him were destroyed after Lincoln’s death, making any that survive 150 years later exceedingly rare and valuable,” said Don Ackerman, Consignment Director for Historical Americana at Heritage Auctions, which conducted the latest sale.

Ever since the assassination of Lincoln there has been a flourishing industry in memorabilia which has included several other locks of hair which were snipped by an array of surgeons who rushed to the house where Lincoln was taken after being shot.

Locks of hair were put into lockets, embossed leather cases and even a small gold box.

In recent years they have fetched between $12,000 and $25,000 when they have been put up for sale.