Life Savers

Life Savers

Perhaps you once heard that Life Savers were invented because the famed candy maker’s daughter died after choking on a hard candy. You might also have heard that the hole in the middle is to prevent more deaths due to suffocation, thus the name Life Savers. It’s a believable story, as are most urban legends, but it isn’t true. Here is the real story behind this iconic candy that’s been around for over 100 years.

In 1912, a Cleveland, Ohio chocolatier by the name of Clarence Crane was looking for a supplement to his line of chocolates that didn’t survive the hot Midwestern summers too well. Mr. Crane concocted a batch of hard candies that were round in shape to distinguish them from European candies which tended to be pillow-shaped. Thinking that they looked like the buoys commonly used on boats in case someone fell into the water, he dubbed his new creation Life Savers. Within a year, Crane sold his formula for his Peppermint Life Savers to one Edward Noble for a scant $2,900 (which would equal around $56,000 today). He changed the packaging from a cardboard tube to a tinfoil wrapper to help with freshness and began selling boatloads of Live Savers.

Other flavors soon followed, most notably the assorted fruit flavors, which were introduced in 1924. The familiar Live Saver hole arrived a few years later, not to keep people from choking but as a simple marketing gimmick. In 1935, Life Savers introduced the iconic five-flavor rolls, that included cherry, lemon, lime, orange and pineapple. In the years that followed, a number of other flavors were introduced including butter rum, tropical flavors (which contained the heavenly coconut variety), wild cherry, Spear-o-Mint and Wint-o-Green.

Speaking of Wint-o-Green, many of you probably remember a sleepover or camping trip brought to life by the crunching and eventual sparking of Wint-O-Green Life Savers. Actually, all hard sugar-based candies emit a bit of light when bitten, but it isn’t normally detectable to the human eye. The phenomenon is called triboluminescence, and it turns out that oil of wintergreen has fluorescent properties, which greatly enhances the effect. Suffice to say, many a kid has stared into a friend’s mouth on a dark night to watch the fireworks show.

Life Savers, now produced by the Wrigley company, are still going strong today, with millions of rolls of candy sold every year. They may not have saved any actual lives, but they have certainly saved the populace countless times from dry mouth and bad breath, and brought smiles to the faces of millions of children while watching their nocturnal light shows. That’s got to be worth something.

If you are a fan of Life Savers candy, maybe even chomped a few in front of the mirror with the lights off, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories of this iconic candy in our comments section below.

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