Urban Legends: The Tootsie Pop Indian Wrapper

Can you have a free Tootsie Roll Pop if you find one?

Tootsie Pop Indian Wrapper
David Emery

A rumor – or urban legend, if you will – has been circulating about the Tootsie Roll wrapper pretty much since the first candy was created in 1931. Certain wrappers were said to show a caricature of a Native American taking aim at a star with his bow and arrow. A rumor began that you could get a free Tootsie Roll Pop if you found a star on your wrapper and sent it off to Tootsie Roll Industries. Is it true?

Sorry. No.

Even Tootsie Roll Industries Is in the Dark 

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

Where the notion came from is a mystery, although it may have originated or been kept alive when local stores began to give away free Tootsie Pops whenever anyone produced one of these wrappers. It's been said that some independent grocers still 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.

There Are a Lot of These Wrappers 

There's actually more to the erroneously coveted wrapper than just a star. The complete illustration shows a boy dressed as a Native American shooting an arrow at the star. This is the "Indian chief" most people mention when they repeat the rumor. And according to Tootsie Roll Industries, the wrapper is not that rare. The shooting star appears on one in every four to six wrappers. Now consider how many Tootsie Rolls are created and run off the assembly lines every day. Tootsie Roll Industries says it changes up the wrappers for the sake of variety. Not much of a mystery there.

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 they've also enclosed a short work of fiction called "The Legend of the Indian Wrapper" since 1982. Apparently, it's intended to serve as a sort of consolation prize. But mightn't it be less distressing and more cost effective to simply chuck a free Tootsie Roll Pop in the mail?

In fine ad-executive prose, the enclosed tale 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. 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."

Here's another explanation, straight from the company's website: "Mr. Owl informed us that one night he was sitting on his branch and he came across a shooting star in the sky. He suggested that we add the shooting star on the Tootsie Pop wrapper to give our fans the necessary luck that may be needed to find out just how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. Over the years, thousands of people have tried and their lick counts have all varied. There have even been studies done to try to figure out the age old question!"