Baby Ruth Candy Bar
Going back even earlier in time than the Called Shot or the Johnny Sylvester story, we arrive at the legend of the Baby Ruth Candy bar. Is that legend? Or misconception? Or deception? Likely, it’s somewhere in between all three, although we’ll never really know.
The story goes like this. Back in 1916, the Curtiss Candy Company was founded in Chicago. The company’s first candy bar was called the “Kandy Kake”. The product was not overwhelmingly successful, so Curtiss went about refashioning it. And, with that in 1920, the “Baby Ruth” candy bar was introduced to candy-craving consumers.
That would be a pretty simple story, if it ended there. But, of course, it didn’t. Adults and kids back then, just like today, were confused by the name and thought it was a candy bar related to Babe Ruth. After all, even in 1921, Babe already had gained a lot of fame in the baseball world. He had hit 54 home runs in 1920 and 59 during the 1921 season. These were incredible records at the time and he was in newspapers all over the country.
So, for many, Baby Ruth was Babe Ruth’s candy, whether truth or not. Kids around the country purportedly sent the Babe their Baby Ruth candy bar wrappers in hopes of getting his signature.
But the Baby Ruth bar had nothing to do with the Babe. In fact, Curtiss Candy Company never swayed that the Baby Ruth bar was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth. Yet, Ruth died an unfortunate death in 1904 at age 12. Curtiss introduced the candy bar in 1920. The company did not even exist until 1916.
Why would they possibly name a candy bar for this young woman who had passed more than a decade-and-a-half before. Grover Cleveland was in office from 1893 to 1897. By the time the Baby Ruth bar was introduced, Presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft had all served as President. And, President Woodrow Wilson was just finishing his second term.
So, it’s no wonder that the popular opinion remained that the Curtiss story of the candy bar’s name didn’t hold water. The popular opinion remained that Curtiss conveniently circumvented the need to pay royalties to the Babe.
That would just be unfortunate. And it would probably be unfair, if the popular opinion was closer to the truth. But the story didn’t end there. In 1926, Babe agreed to lend his name to a new candy bar from a new company. That candy bar was called Ruth’s Home Run candy bar and it was manufactured by the fledgling George H. Ruth Candy Co. Ironically, one version of the wrapper for this bar had the following words printed on it: “Absolutely none genuine without the photograph and official signature of ‘Babe Ruth’ himself.” That same version of the wrapper had Babe’s signature printed on it in three places.
Curtiss Candy Company went to court to block this candy being made with Babe’s permission and marketing efforts. They claimed that it infringed on their trademark established in 1919 for the Baby Ruth bar.
In 1931, Curtiss won their case. The court found that the newer candy bar that used Babe’s name was too close in name to the Baby Ruth bar. And, with that, the commercial-side of the story ended. The Home Run bar was forced off the market. Yet, the legend stayed alive and continues today. Popular opinion remains that the Baby Ruth bar was named for a very famous and special baseball player.
It should be noted that the Curtiss Candy Company was eventually merged into or was acquired by a number of other companies. Baby Ruth’s current owner, Nestle, is five companies removed from Curtiss. On June 6, 2006, Baby Ruth became the “Official Candy Bar of Major League Baseball.”