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Tootsie Pops are hard candy lollipops filled with chocolate-flavored chewy Tootsie Roll. They were invented in 1931 by Lukas R. "Luke" Weisgram, an employee of The Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries in 1969.
The candy debuted to the public in 1931. In addition to chocolate (the original flavor), Tootsie Pops come in cherry, orange, caramel, grape, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, blue raspberry, candy cane (seasonal), and now, pomegranate, banana, blueberry, and green apple flavors. Another release of Tootsie Roll Pops, named Tropical Stormz, features six swirl-textured flavors: orange pineapple, lemon lime, strawberry banana, apple blueberry, citrus punch, and berry berry punch.
At an office meeting employees were asked to share any ideas for new candies. Mr. Weisgram had been thinking beforehand. Just the other day, Clara, his daughter, had shared a lick of her lollipop, and at the same time, Weisgram had a Tootsie Roll in his mouth. He thought about how good it tasted and up popped an idea. The board loved his idea and began to plan for the creation of this new candy. Committees were formed and changes made until finally everything was ready. Tootsie Pops are produced up to this day and additional flavors are added once every while.
Tootsie Pops are known for the catch phrase "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?". The phrase was first introduced in an animated commercial which debuted on U.S. television in 1969. In the original television ad, a boy poses the question to a cow, a fox, a turtle and an owl. Each one of the first three animals tells the boy to ask someone else, explaining that they'd bite a Tootsie Pop every time they lick one. Eventually, he asks the owl, who starts licking it, but bites into the lollipop after only three licks, much to the chagrin of the boy, who gets the empty stick back. The commercial ends the same way, with various flavored Tootsie Pops unwrapped and being "licked away" until being crunched in the center.
While the original commercial is 60 seconds long, an edited 30-second version and 15-second version of this commercial are the ones that have aired innumerable times over the years. The dialogue to the 60-second version is as follows:
In the shorter 30-second ad, Mr. Owl returns the spent candy stick, and the boy's final line is replaced with a reaction shot and a beat of silence. The 30-second commercial dialogue is as follows:
The 15-second commercial (which still airs today) only shows the boy with Mr. Owl and a different narrator (Frank Leslie) speaks the same above line, but without the scene showing the Tootsie Roll pops slowly disappearing with a different tune playing in the background. The question still stands unanswered. The dialogue is as follows:
After the commercial, Mr. Owl became the mascot for Tootsie Roll Pops, appearing in marketing campaigns and on the packaging.
In the 1990s, a new commercial was made featuring a boy asking a robot and a dragon how many licks it takes to get to the center, with the Tootsie Pops known for the catch phrase "How many licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop?", rather than "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?".
In the early 1970s, Tootsie Pops were the initial lollipop of choice of the titular character in the TV series Kojak, and are seen prominently beginning in the December 12, 1973 episode "Dark Sunday" when Lt. Theo Kojak decides to favor them instead of cigarettes.
At some point, a rumor began that the lollipop wrappers which bore three unbroken circles were redeemable for free candy or even free items like shirts and other items. The rumor was untrue, but some shops have honored the wrapper offer over the years, allowing people to "win" a free pop.
Some stores redeemed lollipop wrappers with the "shooting star" (bearing an image of a child dressed as a Native American aiming a bow and arrow at a star) for a free sucker. This was clearly up to the store owner and not driven by the lollipop manufacturer. One convenience store in Iowa City, Iowa, for example, gave candy away when the children asked. In 1994, the owner of Dan’s Shortstop told a reporter that when he first opened children came by often, but after a while, he said, he had to stop giving stuff away…. Giveaways also occurred in Chico, California, where a 7-Eleven store manager in the Pleasant Valley area, said she had to stop because it had become too expensive. Since 1982, Tootsie Roll Industries has been distributing a short story, The Legend of the Indian Wrapper, to children who mail in their Indian star wrappers as a "consolation prize". A superstition of the same wrapper is that it gives the bearer good luck for the rest of the day.
A student study at the University of Cambridge concluded that it takes 3,481 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Another study by Purdue University concluded that it takes an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop using a "licking machine", while it takes an average of 252 licks when tried by 20 volunteers. Yet another study by the University of Michigan concluded that it takes 411 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. A 1996 study by undergraduate students at Swarthmore College concluded that it takes a median of 144 licks (range 70–222) to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Harvard Grad students created a rotating mechanical tongue and concluded it took 2255 licks. It took 2256 licks on one attempt for a normal raspberry Tootsie Pop to get the center showing. YouTube star Ryan Higa found out that it took 700 licks to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop. Many people have tried it at home and some have concluded in the 1,000 lick range.
All assortment flavors can also be purchased in single-flavor bulk. In 2004, and again in 2011 with different flavors, Tootsie Pops would have a random, rotating sixth flavor.
Non-standard flavors can be now purchased in single-flavor bulk.