April 12, 2014

Adventures in Vintage Advertising: Life Savers Candy

It never ceases to amaze me how much time can whiz past at the speed of light between installments of certain reoccurring post series here. It feels like mere days in many ways since we last shone the spotlight on one particular vintage product, Cutex Nail Polish to be exact. In fact however, it has been eleven months, which means that it is absolutely high time we enjoyed another edition of Adventures in Vintage Advertising.
This time around, with Easter Sunday just a week away, it seemed highly fitting to center our attention on a classic, much beloved candy. But which one? Plenty of Easter staples that we enjoy today have been around for years and even decades, but few stretch back quite as far as Life Savers Candies, those delightful little powerhouses of delicious flavour that look like, fitting, the life saving device that they’re named after.
A roll (or two or three!) of Life Savers, often cherry or mixed fruit, was an Easter basket classic in my household when I was growing up and as a result, perhaps more than for any other holiday, I associate Easter with Life Savers candies, even if the two aren't always as instantly linked in society's eyes as this beautiful springtime holiday and chocolate, jelly beans and Peeps are.
Life Savers are one of a venerable group of sweets that can call themselves a centenarian. First created in 1912 by Garrettsville, Ohio candy manufacturer Clarence Crane, these inviting little disks with their missing centres were originally invented to be a summer candy that would hold up better in the season's sweltering heat than chocolate.
Having registered the trademark for Life Savers, Mr.Crane then promptly sold the rights for his candy (which at the time only came in a peppermint flavour called, rather adorably, Pep-O-Mint) to Edward John Noble for just under $3,000. Nobel is responsible for the iconic tin foil (latter aluminum foil) wrapper that has been used to help keep the candy extra fresh almost since day one, as well as for launching the Life Savers and Candy Company in 1913.
Life Savers proved to be a popular sweet snack and way to freshen one's breath from the get-go, with six flavours in total appearing on the scene by the end of the Edwardian era in 1919, including Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-Ve, Cinn-O-Mon, Choc-O-Late, Lic-O-Riche, and Vi-O-Let, the latter of which I blogged about here back in 2011). These six varieties, plus Malt-O-Milk (which wasn't a big hit), introduced in 1920, would remain on the Life Savers roster throughout the ensuing decade.

Though many different verities of Life Savers candies have come and gone, perhaps none is more beloved or easily recognized the world over than the iconic roll of five different fruit flavours packaged in a rainbow wrapper of red, orange, yellow, white and green stripes (representing the five flavours of (pineapple, lime, orange, cherry, and lemon), which first hit shelves in 1935. This classic lineup of flavours would remain in place in America until the early 2000s, when the mix switched to being comprised of pineapple, cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and blackberry (blackberry was later dropped and orange brought back in its place), and is still used here in Canada.

Long an affordable (for decades a pack of Life Savers cost a mere nickel), appealing candy that could easily be transported on the go, during WW2, it is said that various other candy manufacturers even went so far as to donate their sugar allotments to the Life Savers company in order to keep production of these lovely little candies going so that they could be shipped to the Armed Forces on the front as a, quite literally, sweet reminder of home.

No shortage of Life Savers flavours have come and gone over the course of this candy's 102 year history. A few, such as Butter Rum, are still with us today, but numerous others including Choc-O-Mint, Molas-O-Mint, Spear-O-Mint, and Stik-O-Pep, as well as cola, root beer, anise, menthol (intended as a cough drop), and musk (which is available to this day in Australia) failed to retain the endearing popularity of the classic fruit flavours for which Life Savers are so universally well known and loved.

The following selection of twenty-two vintage ads highlights many of the varieties that have found their way into the Life Savers lineup over the years and are a heartwarming, delightful look at the history of this lovely little candy aisle treat.

{According to this no frills ad, Life Savers were the fasting selling five-cent candy specialty in 1917. Sounds believable to me!}

{Life Savers and the military have enjoyed a long and wonderful relationship that stretches all the way back to the first World War, as noted in this ad for Pep-O-Mint candies that appeared in 1919 edition of Literary Digest.}

{"Eat one of these little pure-sugar rings and you will be wedded for life to the dainty, delicate quartet of Life Savers", says this matrimonial themed advert from 1919.}

{Back in the roaring twenties, in what has surely got to be one of the most, how shall we say, unique, Life Savers ad of all times, a subtly Dali worthy illustration is partnered with a classic children's nursery rhyme.}

{Fresh, crisp, tasty - it's 1920s Wint-O-Green Life Savers.}

{While I'm not sure if clove would be my first choice for a pleasurable hard sucking candy (it reminds me too much of natural tooth ache remedies), I'd happily savour any of the other flavours, Vi-O-Let very much included, in this c. 1930 Life Savers ad.}

{Grape Drops - the amazing new taste sensation of the early 1930s.}

{Grape wasn't the only solo fruit flavour of the 1930s to star in its own pack of Life Savers during the 1930s, orange proved popular on that front, too.}

{And going for a solo fruit flavour hat trick, luscious, sweet and tart lemon also joined the Life Savers scene in the 1930s.}

{Crys-O-Mint Life Savers were 'the very latest taste sensation' back in the early thirties.}

{A 1936 Life Savers candy ad that played off of popularity at the time of the famous Dionne Quintuplets (who were born in Ontario, Canada in 1934).}

{All it took to make young Seth a total ladies man back in the 1940s was a pack of Cry-O-Mint Life Savers.} 

{Undoubtedly one of the most delightfully fun Life Savers campaigns of all time, this 1943 married Disney's Gremlins with everyone's favourite candy with a hole in it.}

{Stick-O-Pep, a candy cane inspired peppermint flavour of Life Savers, has come and gone over the years, proving, naturally, most popular during the winter holiday season, as evidenced by this charming ad from 1948 that plays off of the biblical story of the birth of Baby Jesus.}

{An adored holiday season classic for decades now, the Life Savers story book dates back to the 1940s and has graced countless Christmas stockings from day one.}

{What's a five-flavour word for delicious? This candy ad from 1951 has the answer .}

{Okay, this is technically not a real Life Savers ad in the sense that, as far as I know, candies were never produced in these colours, but this chic 1950s fashion page for Kirkland Hall 'Life Savers Suits' was too fab not to share here. (For another 1950s fashion campaign that used Life Savers, see this delightful set of vintage ads over on Couture Allure.}

{Life Savers made itself especially well suited to holidays like Halloween, Valentine's Day, and Easter with it's Choc-O-Mint flavour during the 1950s.}

{One of the longstanding flavours of Life Savers, Butter Rum, offers up a soothing, mellow caramel-esque taste that finds favourite with fans of all ages, including a young pirate in this charming ad from 1957.}

{A canning jar from 1960 full of the the classic five flavours. Everyone has a favourite or two. Cherry and lime were always mine, how about you?}

{During the mid-1960s Life Savers decided to put on the ritz and spice things up by introducing Fancy Fruits, which boasted apple, pear, pink grapefruit and black raspberry flavours. I love all of these fruits and wish I would have gotten a chance to enjoy a roll before they went the way of the dinosaur.}

{If memory serves me right, I think I may have enjoyed at least a few rolls of Strawberry Life Savers, which were introduced in the late 1970s - and they were really, really good!}

{To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective source.}


Though Life Savers candies are best known in North America and Australia (a very similar candy called Polo Mints was introduced by Rowantree in the UK in 1948), their widespread popularity has long extended beyond these two continents and numerous examples of Life Savers emerging in popular culture have appeared over the years, further spreading their appeal across the globe.

In addition to the original style of hard ring shaped sweets, many other Life Savers candies, as well as a short lived line of sodas based on the classic five fruit flavours, have appeared over the decades, including lollipops (another candy which I have very fond childhood memories of, as my mom would often hand them out to my siblings and I to keep up entertained and happy during long road trip) which were released in 1974, gummies, candy, canes, chewing gum, jelly beans, Creme Savers Hard Candies, and Holes (which were small cylinder shaped candies that were supposed to be the missing holes in the centre of the timeless Life Saver ring), but none have topped the original candy shape or flavours in terms of popularity and appeal (though I must say, Life Saver Gummies are pretty darn tasty!).

Though I wasn't born in time to enjoy a pack of Life Savers for just a nickel, I do remember a local Five and Dime in the nearby town of Summerland where you could get four packs for a dollar during sale days when I was a youngster. Nowadays a pack of Life Savers retails for around a dollar usually, which makes it on par with, or even a little less than, the price of most chocolate bars and similar checkout counter sweets.

Unlike many candies out there, at present, to the best of my knowledge and research, Life Savers remain gluten-free, which means that just as in the Easters of my youth, a pack of these refreshing, fabulously tasty candies can still make their way into my candy basket year after year. Now that's what I call an extra sweet treat! :)


  1. What a delightful (and delicious) post! And I'm with you--I'd love to have tried those flavors released in the mid-60s! Pear Lifesavers? Count me in!

    It's so cool to see how advertising campaigns evolve over time, though. One of me and my boyfriend's favorite things to do in antique shops is go through the crates of old ads. I'm in charge of designing ads for the business for which I work, and you can learn a lot from seeing what appealed to the masses when and why. Very interesting.


  2. Everyone remembers LifeSavers from their youth. Nice treat. The vintage ads are a delight to look at. My favorite candy, which is also over 100 years old and uses vintage advertising, are Goo Goo Clusters, made in Nashville, Tennessee.

  3. My favourite flavour is Buttered Rum....mmmmmm. As a kid for Halloween sometimes we got a gift pack which was filled with those little mini Life Saver packs. The perfect size to stick in my pocket or lunch for school. : )


  4. My hubby actually introduced me to them! I like them. I don;t have a fav flavour.

  5. Now I want a Pep-o-Mint lifesaver.

  6. What a sweet post. I just enjoy history like this and your endearing memories made it all the better.
    But my favorite part, what i really really love about this is about in WWII, other companies donated some of their rations to get Life Savers to the boys. I think that's so sweet! I understand their isn't the demand or necessity to do something like that, but things don't go like that anymore! oh, i think its just wonderful the sacrifice and togetherness that portrays. something we can all learn a lesson from.
    thank you for sharing this wonderful post! i'll remember it whenever i see Life Savers!

  7. I remember getting those LifeSaver books as presents in my Christmas stocking! It's so cool to look at all the creative ads from over the years. It's been a long, long time since I've eaten one, but they're a classic!

  8. What a fun read. My dad always carried Lifesavers in his pocket when I was a kid, and he'd give me one when he came home from work at night. I love seeing these ads, it's how I found your blog to begin with, on Pinterest. I will have to read the Cutex one too; the first bottle of nail polish I ever bought for myself was Cutex!

  9. This is such a fun post! I would love to be able to sample some of those original flavors! On a random note... this reminded me of an Abbott & Costello movie (I loved them as a kid!), I can't recall which one, where Abbott falls overboard and he yells "Throw me a lifesaver!"... so Costello takes a roll out of his pocket and tosses one overboard... Hee hee... anyway, great choice!

  10. OK, when I was scrolling through the post and came to the rooster I really thought for a moment you were going to ay there was a chicken flavoured Lifesaver. I am ever so relieved to know there was not!

    The Lifesavers gum was really good, particularly the Wild Cherry. It disappeared by the mid-70's, but it had such a distinctive smell that I can still remember it.

  11. Love this! I haven't had Life Savers in years, but am now having a serious craving!!

  12. I've been a cherry fan since I was a kid. Loved looking at those old ads for one of my favourite candies!

  13. Vintage advertisements are so fabulous and these Life Savers ones are wonderful. Thanks for sharing Jessica.

  14. I had no idea that Life Savers had such a long history! This was such a fascinating read, and I've just added "Life Savers" to my shopping list to satisfy the craving this post has given me! (Musk has always been my favourite flavour, although five flavours are also a hit).

  15. Yum! I remember going to the store with my friend and her mum after school and buying lifesavers. It was always such a big choice and such a struggle to make them last! I haven't had any in a while and these retro ads just make me want to jump in the car and go buy some. pity the road is kinda flooded... I have this hand lotion stuff that i use that is supposed to be sandalwood and vanilla, but the mix of scents smells like lifesavers to me so it's especially fun to use. great post and i love the idea of gifting them for easter :)

  16. I have an old advertising display for Lifesavers. Pls remind me to send you a photo of it!

  17. I love this very, very sweet post and hadn't seen most of those ads that came out prior to the 50s! I thought their ads were always clever and loved the way the individual Life Savers were used in decorative and figurative ways. Last year, I gave my husband an assortment pack in his Christmas stocking--they came in a cute can that of course, looked like a giant roll of Butter Rum, his all time favorite flavor. In the 60s, it was reported that the Cryst-o-mints were helpful to those who were trying to stop smoking, but I'm suspicious about the truth in that! As kids, we used to sort them, much like M&M's, taking the orange first, and leaving the pineapple. Cherry flavor were popular for soothing sore throats, and less expensive than the Luden's Cough Drops which tasted the same. Finally, LifeSavers wrapped in aluminum foil with twisted ends were a traditional birthday party favor when I was a kid. Thank you for such a fun post and the good memories it brought my way. Any of those ads would make a wonderful poster today!

  18. Ohhhh I suddenly crave something sweet after so many adverts! :D I would LOVE to try the violet ones :D I really like sweets that taste like flowers, I don't know why :D
    I think I remember POLO being sold where I live, and they were ok..there is also some Central European candy, which is similar in the concept, but I forgot the name ://

  19. I've been away and was looking forward to catching up on your blog, and as usual you have surprised and delighted me! How fun to to read the history of this little sweet treat! Fruit, peppermint and butter rum all sound delicious :) The nearest thing in the UK are Polo mints as you rightly say and you used to be able to get a mixed fruit pack too (I haven't bought sweets for many a long year!). Reading this made me relive the joys of childhood sweets and made me want to taste a Polo mint again.

  20. Wow! Where did you find all these cool old adds? They are so fun. Now my mouth is watering for some Life Saver candies:)

  21. I Love vintage ads, and we regularly buy life savers. Our oldest son, who's three, gets really bad motion sickness and the peppermint life savers have literally been a life saver. We can't drive on a remotely curvy road without them.
    And oh, how I wish you could still purchase that beautiful suit!

  22. love that little pirate!
    and i take the 17$ suit - trés chic :-)
    awards on your way: http://bahnwaerterhaeuschen.blogspot.de/
    love and hugs!

  23. Apparently the Australian market has its own unique tastes. I haven't noticed musk Life Savers but musk sticks are a "classic" treat. I'm not a fan myself, but I'd rather eat them than vegemite! I'm not sure whether it was a childhood spent on other shores, but I just can't warm to some of our cultural favourites.

  24. How fascinating! It's definitely a mint that has crossed cultures as well as seas. We have Polo in different flavours over here in Blighty and my favourite must be the spearmint one....which I actually carry in the bottom of my handbag. I dare say on certain days it can be a life saver after lunch...hope you are having a fabulous start to the week!
    May xx

  25. Neat post! I loved all these adverts. It's actually pretty neat thinking about something as small as candy, and its origins. Interesting indeed!

  26. This is so darn neat! I grew up with lifesavers and were my go to candy as a girl since I wasn't much on chocolate {gasps, shocking I know}. Seeing the vintage adds of one of my favorite childhood candy is really cool.

  27. in my house, there is a man who love candies....

  28. I loved musk Lifesavers and it amused me to read that Australia is the only place that they exist now. When I was little when we went into town (an hour and a half drive from home) my brother and sister and I were allowed to get a packet of Lifesavers for a treat. I always got the musk ones. I would think that I was going to change and get the five fruits, but at the last minute I would opt for the musk ones.

    I also clicked through to your Cutex blog post which was excellent, thank you. The shapes of the mid-century bottles are beautiful. Cutex polish is still available in Australia as well, they have a fantastic product called jet-dry which I have in a few colours.

  29. I enjoyed looking at all these adverts, I find the changes in advertising over the life of a product to be really interesting. I liked knowing all about their history. Being from the UK I have never had a Life Saver but when I started looking at the ads I wondered if they were a bit like Polos, Fruit Polos in particular. Then when I got to the end of your article you mentioned them!

  30. Gosh, what a fun stroll down advertising lane! The 1920s Wint-O-Green ad with all of the mint is especially eye-catching for some reason, and the Dionne Quintuplets one is simply a clever play on the event.

    The fruity flavours are wonderful, of course, but I have to confess to being a Butter Rum fan. It must be the Navy men and sailors in my lineage. ;)

  31. This brings back memories of the coolest building of my childhood. When we lived in Port Chester, NY, we'd occasionally drive past the Lifesavers plant in the downtown business district. This was the main manufacturing location for Life Savers for decades. The exterior was decorated with super-sized, three-dimensional rolls of Lifesavers, each one "torn open" at the end to show enormous candies! Can you imagine how thrilling this was to a 5-year-old? LOL. Still is just remembering it!

    The enormous rolls were the "basic" flavors (5 flavors, pep-o-mint, etc.). As I got older, I really wanted to take a tour and see the manufacturing process. Alas, we moved in 1975, and the plant closed down in 1985. Fortunately, the building -- now on the National Historical Register -- was converted to condominiums (apartments), but idiotically (in my opinion), the giant rolls of candy removed from the building (why?).

    Here's what happened to one of those rolls. The post includes a photo of the building, as I knew it:

    I'd like to try the Vi-O-let flavor.

    1. I'd love to try the Violet flavour as well. I've always had a real penchant for floral flavoured sweets and edible flowers. Turkish Delight, for example, is one of my very favourite candies ever.

      It's awesome that you lived so close to the Life Savers plant. Did it smell sweet when you went past? For some reason, I've always imagined that it must have.

      Thank you for your great comment and for sharing that link, dear Liza.

      ♥ Jessica

    2. Jessica, If you like floral sweets, you must try these rose candies! We have them at a local delicatessen, and my girls and I love them (but we all agree we could do without the anise seed at the center). The company has been in business since the 1500s! That alone is worth giving them a try, no? http://www.gracioushome.com/les-anis-de-flavigny-mints-01258522.html?utm_medium=cse&utm_source=google&utm_term=1258522&gclid=CLrChtS2ib8CFTJp7AodK3EAew

    3. They sound marvelous, Liza, thank you very much for the scrumptious suggestion. I totally agree, any company that has been around for several centuries deserves my attention.

      Have an awesome weekend!
      ♥ Jessica

  32. Fun to see all this. A trip back in time for me. I have tried almost all those flavors. I must be one of the old ones on here. And yes, the Fancy Fruits in the 60s and 70s were tasty. I was also partial to Butter Scotch as well as the Butter Rum. They were two different flavors. My favorites were Spear-O-Mint and Cryst-O-Mint. The thing I find sad, however, is that it is hard to find the single rolls of Life Savers for sale in a candy aisle, any more. They were a mainstay at the check out counter back in the day.

    1. Very cool regarding Butterscotch and Butter Rum being two different flavours, Amy, I personally only recall seeing Butter Rum (it's so good!). Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that it's tricky to find single rolls any more where you live. Though not quite as commonplace as they once were here, I still see them fairly often, especially at drug stores. Are their any dedicated candy stores in your area? Perhaps they'd stock some there if you do have any.

      Thank you very much for your great comment,
      ♥ Jessica

  33. Yum! Now I want a Life Saver. I haven't had one in years! haha!

    I remember Butter Rum. I didn't like them. But I do Iike the Pep-O-Mints.

    Fun post! Thanks!

  34. I just adore vintage ads, so thanks a bunch for this charming post, Jessica. :)

  35. Its amazing how this product has survived - I personally love them, whenever I can find them, that is.
    In Spanish it's "Salvavidas", sometimes when I eat something that I know has been made for a long time, I actually wonder what it really tasted like when it came out first…. this is one example. If I could get my little hands on an edible "first edition" of Grand 1000 chocolate, Hershey's kiss, Lifesaver… can you imagine ?!

  36. I never knew LifeSavers had such a history and so many flavours! I have a roll of Peppermint Lifesavers in my handbag and can remember my mother giving me a Peppermint LifeSaver if I felt sick. I'm glad you mentioned that Musk was still available in Australia as that is probably my favourite of the 3 flavours you can find here, although would really love to try Butter Rum if I ever get over to North America :)

  37. What a fun & informative article. Live the photos. I have the Violet Lifesaver picture, 11x14, that I'd given to my Mom one Christmas, her bedroom was always in shades of purple. She has since passed away, far too soon. Would you have any ides of its value besides my sentimental value? Thanks

    1. Hi there, thank you very much for your lovely comment and question. Is the Lifesavers image that you have an original vintage ad, an original piece of advertising, or a reproduction (or photocopy) of an original piece? I ask because the value will, largely be determined by such (and of course by its size and condition as well).

      Many thanks again & have a fantastic Friday,
      ♥ Jessica