Turkish Taffy
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Inventor Herman Herer: Contrary to popular misinformation Turkish Taffy was not invented by Victor Bonomo (pronounced "Bah nah moe"). Rather, Turkish Taffy was invented in 1912 by Herman Herer in New York. Herman emigrated from Austria where as a young man he began his career as an apprentice to a candy maker, earning only room and board. In 1901 he brought his skills to the land of opportunity were he started his own candy making business, selling candy to retailers and manufacturers. While making a batch of marshmallow candy for M. Schwarz & Sons of Newark, New Jersey, Herman, then known as Pop, made a mistake. He added too many egg whites to the batch. Instead of throwing the batch away he recognized that he may be on to something. After much experimentation and testing, lo-and-behold Pop created, “Turkish Taffy”.  Unfortunately, no one actually knows why Pop came up with the name or in what manner he sold or marketed Turkish Taffy.

 
M.Schwarz & Sons: Several years later Pop’s business was purchased by M. Schwarz & Sons and Pop went to work for them perfecting his Turkish Taffy. M. Schwarz & Sons renamed the product to Turkish Chewing Taffy which was sold with displays of miniature elves wearing hats and cooking Turkish Chewing Taffy over fire-heated open kettles. Little is known about the success, extent of marketing or sales that M. Schwarz & Sons had with Turkish Chewing Taffy.

Bonomo Family: In 1936 the Bonomo family, of Coney Island (Brooklyn), New York purchased M. Schwarz & Sons’ Turkish Chewing Taffy.  The Bonomo family soon dropped the word “Chewing” and simply referred to the candy as “Turkish Taffy”. Eventually Turkish Taffy and Bonomo’s became synonymous and it was thereafter referred to as Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. After a battle in the United States Court of Customs & Patents, the Bonomo Family trade-marked the terms “Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy” and “Turkish Taffy” starting in 1946.  The Bonomo family is credited with introducing Turkish Taffy to Hundreds of Thousands of fans and innovative techniques to market and package Bonomo Turkish Taffy for commercial and national sales.

The history of Turkish Taffy and the Bonomo Family are inextricably intertwined.  As a matter of fact the Bonomo name came to be as much a symbol of Coney Island as the Cyclone roller coaster. Albert Bonomo emigrated from Turkey in 1892. In 1894 Albert, as so many men of his time, started in the candy business on a very modest scale by selling candy in a pushcart in the nation’s playground known as Coney Island. Albert also started the Bonomo Ice Cream Company and drove a horse-drawn covered wagon selling ice cream in Coney Island and Luna Park, Brooklyn, N.Y.  Albert and his wife Esther had two children; Victor was born in Oct 1898 and Joseph was born in December 1901. The Bonomo family resided in a large three-story house in Coney Island, NY with an ice cream and candy factory on the first floor, the Bonomo domicile on the second floor and a dormitory that housed approximatley 30 workers on the third floor.

In 1919 the business was named, A. Bonomo & Sons, with an accent on sons. That was when Vic and Joe became partners. Vic had just come out of the Army (serving in WWI) and had been in the food brokerage business. Joe pursued his body building and played for “The Hilton”, Coney Island’s first professional football team. Vic married Zephyr (Sophie) Narns in 1923. They had one (1) child, Tico in June 1925. In 1933 Albert Bonomo passed away and Vic Bonomo assumed directorship of the organization.

Acquisition of Turkish Taffy: In 1936 A. Bonomo & Son’s purchased M. Schwarz & Sons’ along with their product “Turkish Chewing Taffy”. At first, Turkish Taffy was sold to concessionaires on the boardwalk of Coney Island and through direct sales out of a basket on the boardwalk of Coney Island. Joe Bonomo is credited with their big break, by making a deal for  F.W. Woolworth Company (Woolworth’s 5 & 10 ¢ stores) to sell Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy in the stores in large rectangular blocks from which pieces were broken off by a small hammer known as a ball-peen and sold by weight.  In 1940 Joe Bonomo left the candy field to pursue a career as a Hollywood motion picture actor, stunt man, strong man, and health writer while Vic re-established the company on his own.

Vic’s son, Tico served in the Pacific with the Navy in WWII and returned in 1944. During the war Victor renamed A. Bonomo & Sons to Gold Medal Candy Corporation. In 1946 Tico joined his father and eventually served as Administrative Vice President. After the sugar rationing of WWII, in the late 1940s, Gold Medal Candy, Corp formed & cut the blocks into large size candy bars wrapped in wax paper, using similar figures and images from their predecessor, M. Schwarz & Sons. The bars sold for 5¢ and came in vanilla only. The use of a wrapped bar allowed customers to break up Turkish Taffy on their own terms and “Crack It Up” became a popular tag line. Thus the first interactive candy was born. Interestingly the first wrappers did not have the flavor indicated on them as Turkish Taffy was manufactured without consideration for any alternative flavors. Gold Medal Candy had much success with the new bar but they were hampered by the warm weather. Since Turkish Taffy had cold flow properties and got quite soft and pliable by warmer temperatures, packaging and shipping during the summer caused great obstacles. The wax paper wrapper failed to contain the candy and the bars failed to retain their shape, causing customers to complain and retailers to be dissatisfied. These problems were cured by the innovative use of a foil wrapper. Since candy bars were not sealed in the 1940’s, Vic & Tico Bonomo used the dead fold properties of heavy foil to contain the Turkish Taffy shape and the remarkable non-stick properties of foil against the candy, to prevent stick. Thus the famous foil wrapper was developed. Both the original wax paper and the subsequent first foil wrappers had, at first, almost identical information and images except adding exciting science facts to the bottom of the foil wrappers.  The wrappers bore the instructions, “CRACK IT UP! - HOLD BAR IN PALM OF HAND - STRIKE AGAINST FLAT SURFACE - LET IT MELT IN YOUR MOUTH”. Some time thereafter, Gold Medal expanded the flavor line to include peanut butter, chocolate, strawberry and banana flavors. Easy to eat bite-size pieces in six flavors, wrapped in the wax paper twists, were also added to the Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy line. The sixth flavor is currently unknown. Gold Medal dropped the peanut butter flavor for the bars.

Promoting Turkish Taffy: Tico Bonomo believed strongly that Turkish Taffy would become a national brand through the use of the media. With no prior examples to guide him Tico developed and created “The Magic Clown” show as a vehicle to spread the word of Turkish Taffy. At the end of World War II, technological, economic, and political phenomena came together to enable the U.S. to enter a new era--the era of television. From the late 1940s to early 1950s, most television broadcasts imitated the programs established by radio. The concept and implementation of commercials to pay the costs were in the distant future. The only way stations could operate and shows could air was through sponsors. Most sponsors were large national companies that demanded programs created around their own specifications, and local advertising agencies carefully crafted programs designed to appeal to the sponsors' image and desires. The “Magic Clown” was a visionary concept. The Gold Medal Candy Corp created the show solely as a vehicle to promote their product. Rather than have the show start off with an introduction about the sponsor’s product with product breaks where the stars would talk about the attributes of the product, “The Magic Clown” show incorporated Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy into the show’s theme. In a 1994 interview, Tico Bonomo recollected the work that went into the program: "I spent the summer of 1948 with writers and producers and an advertising agency. Those days I worked a seven-day week. The program was on Sundays so I was at NBC every single Sunday at 8 a.m. and we were on the air at 11:30 a.m." The show featured a clown, at first referred to only as "The Magic Clown," but later renamed Bonomo. Originally titled "The Magic Clown", the series was seen Sunday Mornings on the NBC TV network from Sunday, September 11, 1949 to Sunday, June 27, 1954. Veteran radio announcer and actor Andre' Barruch was the show's announcer and often the Magic Clown's foil in his magic tricks. Zovella, (Josh Norris’ stage name) played "The Magic Clown" until he left the show in 1952. Dick Dubois took over the role of "The Magic Clown" in 1952 and he would host the show until 1954. Eventually, the show moved to WABD TV Ch. 5 where it was seen Sunday mornings until 1958. The program then moved to WNTA Ch. 13 in Newark. The series was retitled "Bonomo, The Magic Clown" and the show was seen weekday afternoons from September 29, 1958 to July 24, 1959 and was also seen Saturday mornings on Ch. 13 from Saturday, September 27, 1958 to Saturday, January 3, 1959. Comic/character actor, mimic, cartoonist and puppeteer Doug Anderson took on the role of "Bonomo, The Magic Clown" aided by his wife, actress and former model Gayle Anderson. Kids were hooked on the magic clown with club membership, magic gift items and daily appearances with a live audience participation in the show. Shows like Wonderama and the Mickey Mouse Club followed in the steps established by Gold Medal.   

Turkish Taffy grew in popularity, being distributed far beyond the metropolitan New York region into much of the rest of the country. Tico Bonomo revealed that that in its heyday, Gold Medal sold 80 million Turkish Taffy bars a year. Plant manager and Confectionery Expert Gary Nomer revealed that an equal amount of bite-size twists were also sold.  Bonomo was also featured on children’s Television shows such as Wonderama and entered into a co-sponsor agreement with Duncan Yo-Yo. Turkish Taffy was featured on cereal boxes such as Cheerios with a bonus bar inside. Gold Medal created endearing animated commercials as well as commercials showing Bonomo’s roots in Coney Island and featured some of the iconic amusement rides.  Tico Bonomo snuck a few of his children into the commercial as extras. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Bonomo Turkish Taffy was advertised in Comics, was promoted with packaging coupons and even offered a gift catalog. Gold Medal became an industry leader. Victor Bonomo became one of the most coveted candy men in the world, winning Candy Man of the Year and the most prestigious confectionery honor known as the Kettle Award.

Candy Corporation of America: Candy Corporation of America (CCA) took over the reins of Gold Medal and the Bonomo family and began national ad campaigns with puppets named BO NO & MO created by the world famous puppeteer, Bill Braird. Braird was the mentor to Jim Henson who’s Muppets introduced decades later looked strikingly similar to BO NO & MO. Candy Corporation of America’s packaging of Turkish Taffy was designed to fit the occasion, with specialty packaging for holidays like Halloween. CCA was run by Peter Engle as President and Sidney J. Feltenstein as Vice President of Marketing. Thereafter, CCA interests in the Bonomo line was acquired by a public parent, Lehigh Coal and Navigation. The CCA division held several candy companies in addition to Bonomo Turkish Taffy including such brands as Mason Mints, Mason Dots, and Cella's Cherries.

Tootsie Roll Industries: In 1972 Tootsie Roll Industries purchased the rights to Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy.  A number of web based stories recite the same misconception that by the mid 1980’s Bonomo’s turkish Taffy was shelved by Tootsie Roll Industries due to lack of interest. In reality, shortly following acquisition, Tootsie Roll Industries changed the sixty-year old tried and true smack-it crack-it formula to a soft taffy. They dropped the name “Turkish Taffy”, changed the ingredients, packaging, and shape. Eventually the product was named Soft and Chewy TootsieTaffy. It was this product that Tootsie Roll Industries Shelved.  

Bonomo Turkish Taffy, LLC: The passion and demand for Turkish Taffy never waned. Fans banded together to petition Bonomo Turkish Taffy’s return. With the advent of the internet, blogs and discussion groups were formed to reminisce about their favorite candy and lament its unavailability. After many years of trying, in 2002 Kenny Wiesen, of New York and Jerry Sweeney of Philadelphia were successful in acquiring Bonomo Turkish Taffy. After years of making sure that it would be returned in its original smack-it crack-it formula, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, LLC relaunched Turkish Taffy in the summer of 2010 introducing it at the largest and most prestigious candy show in the world, The NCA (National Confectionery Association) Sweets and Snack show held in Chicago. Bonomo Turkish Taffy is produced in the USA (York Pennsylvania) exactly the way it was between the 1940’s and 1972. The original design and packaging was recreated and it is offered in bars and bite size twists in Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Banana. Bonomo Turkish Taffy, LLC owns the trademarks: “Turkish Taffy”, “Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy” and “b Bonomo”.

Current Media Coverage: The story of the return of Turkish Taffy was featured in Fortune Magazine on October 18, 2010. In May 2011, Bonomo Turkish Taffy was featured on the Food Network show “Kid in a Candy Store” (episode Tropical Delights) and was thereafter featured on May 28, 2011 on the Food Network show, “Unwrapped” (episode “All American Eats”). The host, Mark Summers referred to Bonomo Turkish Taffy as his number one favorite childhood candy. Also in May 2011, Bonomo Turkish Taffy launched its web site: www.BonomoTurkishTaffy.com. Customers and fans are encouraged to write in to tell of their past & present experiences and stories with Bonomo Turkish Taffy and are especially encouraged to share their stories of the good-ol-days.

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