Submitted by Gavin Esposito
Clarence A. Crane (April 5th, 1875–July 6th, 1931) was a confectioner responsible for the invention of Lifesavers candy. For a brief time, he resided in Trumbull County, owning a maple syrup refinery in Warren
Born on April 5th, 1875 as the second out of three children—both girls to Arthur and Ella Brandsby Crane of Garrettsville, Portage County, Ohio; Clarence’s father, Arthur, was a respected citizen of Garrettsville. Running a successful maple syrup business as well as the village general store and serving as the director of the town’s First National Bank, Arthur Crane was an industrious man; and as seeing as Clarence was his only male child, it was expected that he would work in the same trade as his father did. From an early age, Clarence accompanied his father to the hardy maple trees that surround Garrettsville to tap maple syrup, as well as the factory where bottling took place. Attending the town’s local schools, he pursued further education at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania; before dropping out after two terms. Deciding to make his own fortune, he took a job as a traveling salesman, selling cookies for the National Biscuit Company, based out of Akron. This venture didn’t last for long, and soon enough, he was back to the job of his youth; working at his father’s maple syrup business. In April of 1898, at the age of 23, Clarence became acquainted with Grace Edna Hart; a native of Chicago who was in Garrettsville for the season visiting her aunt and cousin. After meeting her, Clarence fell in love; and just after two months of courtship, on June 1st, Clarence Crane and Grace Edna Hart were wed in Chicago.
Returning to Garrettsville; the newlyweds settled in a home built for the couple by Clarence’s father; a two story gabled home with a spacious front located at the present address of 10688 Freedom Street. Just a year and one month after marriage on July 21st, 1899; the young couple had their first and only child, a boy named Harold Hart Crane. In 1903, after working at his father’s syrup business for much of his life, Crane decided that it was time to leave Garrettsville, and make something of himself. Having sufficient experience in the field of syrup making, in 1901; Crane moved himself and his family to Trumbull County, settling in Warren. It would be here that he would start his own syrup business. Taking a loan out from his father in law, Charles Hart, who was an entrepreneur in the steel industry, Crane opened a syrup cannery of his own at the corner of South Pine and Franklin Streets complete with it’s own railroad spur, served by the Erie Railroad. At first, the family lived in a home located at 249 High Street; near the present day location of the Mocha House, before moving a half mile northwest to what is now 326 North Park Avenue. The new home; a two story, Queen Anne style Victorian home built in the 1890s, was not unlike the homes down on Mahoning Avenue—Warren’s famed “Millionaire’s Row.” Covered in clapboard, the home featured a turret on the right side capped with a “witches cap” pointed roof, as well as a prominent front facing gable on the left side, and a porch, which featured a small gazebo-like projection under the gable, crowned with a small onion-dome. By 1907, his company had become the largest producer of maple syrup in the world! Sadly, in 1908, Crane sold his company to the Corn Products Refining Company; but managed to retain a position there–becoming the manager of the newly-built Argo, Illinois packing plant; located near Chicago. Sadly, the bond between Clarence and Grace started to crumble; and after ten years of a rocky marriage between the two, in the summer of 1908, the couple decided on a trial separation. Grace moved back with her parents, while Clarence took up residence in a boarding house near his employers main office. To prevent strain on Harold, he was sent to live with Grace’s parents, who by this time, had relocated to Cleveland; living at University Circle. Shortly after arriving, Grace joined Harold back in Cleveland, and after apologizing and courting her again, Clarence was allowed to return back to Ohio to them, and live as a family.
On a trip to Victoria, British Columbia in 1910, Crane was introduced to a chocolate that was “so good it could make him rich.” Sadly, the name of the brand is lost to history; but Crane, being a man of ideas, tried to get the Canadian company to offer him a franchise in the Cleveland area, but the company was hesitant, and backed out. Not letting this get in the way, he had the chocolate chemically analyzed, and began to sell the cloned confection under the brand of “Queen Victoria Chocolates” in the Cleveland area. In the summer of 1912, seeing that chocolate sales dropped during the summertime; Crane struggled to come up with a new product that would withstand the heat. Investing in a pill manufacturing machine used by the pharmaceutical industry to produce round, flat pills; Crane took translucent caramel, rounded it into a disk, and put it into the machine; resulting in a perfect hole being punctured in the center. Seeing that these candies resembled lifesaving perseveres used on ships; Crane named this new product “Lifesavers.” At this time, only one flavor was produced, peppermint. Marketing the candies as a breath mint, they were packaged in cardboard tubes with the words “Pep-O-Mint Life Savers” in the front, accompanied by an “illustration of a sailor tossing a young lady a life preserver.” In 1913, E. J. Noble, a marketing executive from New York City, approached Crane with a marketing campaign. Although he rejected the offer, Clarence sold Noble the the rights for the Life Saver brand for $2,900. Soon after, the candy was under the ownership of Noble, and the Life Savers and Candy Company was formed. Like Clarence, Noble marketed the candies as a breath mint; however, he had an (in)genius marketing and packaging strategy. Wrapping them in tin foil instead of cardboard as Crane did, Noble marketed them to saloons and bars, as well as grocery stores and restaurants, to be placed near the cash register; being sold for 5¢ a roll. Soon enough, the candy became a hit, especially among children.
Despite relinquishing the rights to his most notable innovation, Clarence Crane still remained in the candy industry; forming the Crane Chocolate Company in 1916. By this time, after a brief period of stability, the Crane’s marriage began to collapse—for good. In 1917, rumors began to circulate around Grace’s friend group that Clarence was seen out and about in town in the company of other women. Although false, it was enough to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Finally, the marriage was over, and the couple divorced. Despite the tumultuous marriage, Crane’s company; the Crane Chocolate Company, still prospered; and by 1921, the firm had offices in both New York City and Kansas City, Missouri. The same year; fruit flavored Lifesavers debuted; with each flavor sold in separate packs.
In 1927, Clarence purchased two cottages in Chagrin Falls to be renovated into a restaurant. Connecting the two structures with a two story addition, the new building soon opened as “Crane’s Canary Cottage.” Serving as an upper class restaurant as well as the Crane’s country home, the place was known for serving local meat and produce; and a favorite of figures such as Will Rogers, Duncan Hines; and John D. Rockefeller. In 1930, Crane fell in love again; this time with a hostess by the name of Bessie Meacham; but sadly, the newfound union wouldn’t last long. On July 6th, 1931, at the age of 55, Clarence Arthur Crane passed away. Just a year later, his only son, Harold Hart, who dropped his father’s last name shortly after running away, would commit suicide. Buried together in the Park Cemetery in Garrettsville, they were both outlived by Grace, who herself passed in 1947 and was cremated. In 1935, just four years after Clarence’s death, the Five Flavor roll of Lifesavers—all five fruity flavors in one pack, debuted. By World War 2, the Crane’s Canary Cottage shut down; however, it is currently used as a hotel called the Inn at Chagrin Falls. The former Crane home on North Park Avenue in Warren is still standing, although abandoned; while the Crane’s first home in Garrettsville still stands, and is lived in. An Ohio Historical Marker placed on the front lawn of the Garrettsville residence was erected in 2005 and tells the story of the Cranes. Another marker, located near Clarence’s in-laws house at University Circle in Cleveland, is dedicated to Harold Crane. In 1956, the Life Saver and Candy Company, then known as Lifesaver Limited, merged with the Beech-Nut Corporation. In 1981, the Beech-Nut Corporation merged with Nabisco, and in 1992, released Lifesaver Gummies; a soft version of the candy. In 2000, Kraft acquired Nabisco, and just eight years later in 2008, Nabisco was brought out by the Mars Corporation, which Lifesavers are now produced under.