A Tootsie Pop Mystery

From the Urban Legends Mailbag

Tootsie Pop Indian Wrapper
Some Tootsie Roll Pop wrappers feature an illustration of an Indian shooting an arrow at a star. David Emery

Dear Urban Legends:

This may seem trivial, but there are many, many people I've talked to who would like an answer to this one.

Where did the rumor come from that you could get a free Tootsie Pop if you found a star on your wrapper? I've tried contacting www.tootsie.com but they do not provide an email address or way to contact them. Is it possible to find out the answer to this?

Dear Reader:

Probably not.

Nobody seems to know how this rumor got started, least of all the folks at Tootsie Roll Industries in Chicago, who've been politely deflecting mail-in requests for free Tootsie Roll Pops ever since the 1930s. The company maintains there was never any sort of official promotion or contest associated with Tootsie Pop wrappers. Ever. Where the notion came from is a mystery.

There's actually more to the erroneously coveted wrapper than just a star, as it happens. The complete illustration shows a boy dressed as a Native American shooting an arrow at the star, and it's that "Indian chief" most people mention when they repeat the rumor. About one-third of all Tootsie Pop wrappers sport the design, I'm told. Why? For variety, apparently. Not much of a mystery there.

I'm not sure how commonly this happens, but readers have also reported that some independent grocers do unofficially honor the supposed free Tootsie Pop offer when kids bring the Indian wrappers into their stores for redemption.

But it's neither sanctioned nor financed by Tootsie Roll Industries.

The Legend of the Indian Wrapper

For many years the company responded to kids who wrote in to claim their free Tootsie Pop with an apologetic (and surely disappointing) note, but since 1982 they've also enclosed a short work of fiction called "The Legend of the Indian Wrapper," apparently intended to serve as a sort of consolation prize.

In fine ad-executive prose, it tells of a man "long, long ago, when all lollipops were made alike," who wanted to make a new kind of sucker with something special inside. But he couldn't figure out how. Well, one day the man awoke "to find a grand Indian chief smiling at him. The chief told the man that he would help him make a lollipop with a chewy candy center, if the man promised the chief that he would never, ever, stop making them for people. The man promised. ...The 'Indian Wrapper' is supposedly a sign that the grand chief has personally checked that particular lollipop for the chewy candy center."

Maybe it's just me, but I would have thought that piling yet more hype on top of the Indian wrapper mystique simply confuses kids instead of quieting their false expectations.

Mightn't it be less distressing and more cost-effective to simply chuck a free Tootsie Roll Pop in the mail?

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