Clara Stover, chocolate pioneer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Clara Lewis was born in Oxford, Iowa in 1882.

She was raised on a farm with her three sisters, who were required to do the work that men would typically do.

When she got older, Clara borrowed tuition money in order to go to Iowa City Academy.

Clara met Russell Stover while in school, but he dropped out of school to sell tobacco and candy.

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The couple married in 1911.

They were given a farm in Canada as a wedding gift, but eventually decided country life wasn’t for them.

They moved to Chicago where Clara would dip chocolates in their apartment kitchen, while Russell sold them to local drug stores.

The Stover’s continued to dream of a chocolate empire.

Russell started working with Christian Nelson. Together they patented a process to coat ice cream with chocolate, without either melting. Clara suggested naming it an “Eskimo Pie.”

The Stover’s saved up enough money to start their own candy company, called “Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candy” in 1924.

Within a year the company was selling candies in seven shops.

The Stover’s began to build factories in Denver and Kansas City. In 1931, the company headquarters moved to Kansas City.

After the move, the company increased it’s output from 20,0000 to 11 million pounds of candy production.

In 1943, Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies was renamed “Russell Stover Candies.”

While on a trip in Europe, Clara noticed heart-shaped boxes for chocolate around Valentine’s Day. She brought the idea back to the United States, and it continues to be a foundation of the Russell Stover company.

Russell died in 1954, leaving Clara in charge of the company.

When she took over, Russell Stover Candies was sold in 2,000 stores nationwide and through 40 company-owned stores.

The company was sold in 1960.

Clara died in Kansas City in 1975.

 

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