Easter is two months away–it falls on April 9 this year–but most Easter baskets that will be assembled in 2023 are likely to have predictable contents. You can bet your bottom dollar that nestled deep in the fake plastic grass, next to the chocolate bunnies and the speckled malted milk eggs, you will find bright yellow marshmallow chicks–known to all as Peeps.
Peeps are the favorite Easter candy of some people; for others, Peeps have a dangerously addictive quality. For those people, if Peeps are in the house they must be promptly discovered and immediately consumed–perhaps, in some cases, after first briefly exposing the Peeps to the air, so that the yellow skin hardens. And then, after the lust for Peeps is fully sated, the guilt about gobbling down multiple delectable Peeps will cause the Peeps addict to banish the candy from the house until the next Easter rolls around.
Why I am writing about Peeps in early February, two full months before Easter? Because the guy who invented the machine that allowed Peeps to be mass produced and delivered to millions of Peeps fans just died.
His name was Ira Born, but he was known as Bob. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the family candy business, called Just Born. In the 1950s, Just Born bought a small company that produced marshmallow candy by hand. Bob Born decided to try to create a device that would produce the marshmallow treats mechanically, and spent a year designing and building the machine that ultimately would produce a package of Peeps in six minutes, whereas the hand production approach would require 27 hours of labor. Bob Born’s machine successfully mechanized the process and was in operation for more than 50 years at the Just Born candy company, and the technological concepts he developed are still used in the making of Peeps. That’s why he’s known as the Father of Peeps.
Bob Born died at age 98, having revolutionized a candy production process and allowed delectable, bright yellow marshmallow chicks to become a beloved staple of Easter baskets throughout the land. Peeps fans owe him a debt of gratitude that can never been repaid. That’s a pretty good legacy.