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How baseball players, a pesky suitor and a family’s horse all have a connection to candy bar naming

Updated: March 14, 2014 8:32AM

ELGIN — Here are some trivia and myths about candy that may impress your sweetie — or any other friends — as we near Valentine’s Day, according to Chicago-area candy industry expert Leslie Goddard, as she spoke to a crowd at Gail Borden Public Library on Tuesday night:

Baby Ruth bars, which were originated by Chicago’s Curtis Candy Co. and now are made by Nestle, may or may not have been named after the famous Yankees and Red Sox player George Herman “Babe” Ruth. When they first came out, Goddard says, people seemed to assume that. But Curtis officials quickly said that the bar had been named in honor of Ruth Cleveland, the late daughter of former U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

“The only problem with that is that the candy bar didn’t come out until 1921. That was 17 years after Ruth Cleveland had died, but it was right about the time that Babe Ruth was hitting his stride as a sports star. So some historians believe the Cleveland story was just an attempt by Curtis to avoid being sued for using George Herman Ruth’s name,” Goddard says.

Some less-enduring but once-popular Chicago candy bars were named after sports heroes: The Red Grange Bar, named for the Chicago Bears star of the 1920s; and the Reggie Bar of the 1970s, named after Oakland As slugger Reggie Jackson.

Another apparent myth: The Frango candies made famous by Marshall Field’s department store were named after the Frederick and Nelson Department Store in Seattle, which first made them and which was bought out by Marshall Field in the 1920s.

That much is true, Goddard says. But Field’s later claimed that the candies originally had been named “Franco Mints,” with the C coming from the word “company.” Field’s claimed the spelling had been changed to Frango with a G because fascist dictator Francisco Franco of Spain made that name disreputable.

That made for a nice story. But Goddard says Frederick and Nelson had trademarked the name, with the G spelling, in 1918, and Franco didn’t take over Spain until the late 1930s.

The Curtis Candy Co. was founded by a German immigrant named Otto Schnering. The business was starting up in 1916, a year after a World War I German U-boat sank the ocean liner Lusitania and a year before the United States declared war against Germany. So Schnering thought “Curtis” sounded a lot more red, white and blue than “Schnering Candy Co.” or even “Otto’s Candies.” Curtis was his wife’s maiden name.

The Chicago-born Oh Henry bar got its name not from the short-story author O. Henry but because a pesty young fellow named Henry repeatedly dropped into the Williamson Candy Co.’s factory store in Chicago to hang around the women who worked there. The girls began to take advantage of his presence by asking, “Oh, Henry, could you move this?” and “Oh, Henry, could you lift that?” Then the boss asked them for suggestions to name his newest product ... .

One candy got its name because engineers at the Holoway Candy Co. kept trying to develop a machine that could make perfectly round chocolate caramels. No matter what they did, each new device would turn out caramels with a flat bottom, and those were rejected as “duds” in the experiment, Finally the company decided simply to sell the candies with their bottoms flat and call them “Milk Duds.”

Greek immigrant Andrew Kanelos started the line originally named “Andy’s Candies.” It had a nice rhyming ring. But men of his day didn’t want to be seen buying candy named after another man. So Kanelos changed the spelling to A-N-D-E-S and put drawings of the South American mountain chain on his boxes.

Snickers, the fourth-biggest-selling candy in America and one manufactured at the M&M/Mars plant alongside Metra’s Elgin-to-Chicago Milwaukee West Line tracks, was named after the Mars family’s favorite horse.

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