Prohibition Lifesavers: When Butter-Rum was Butter-Yum!

[UPDATE:  Timeline updated on March 4th, 2012]

There are but a select few branded confections that can claim to have been around a century, and as of this year, Lifesavers is one of them.  For a collector, Lifesavers provide such a history and array of offerings that you could have a hobby focused on them alone.

I’ve enjoyed the bits I’ve learned about the history of “The Candy with the Hole” and today I’m going to share one of the more colorful discoveries I’ve made about one particular flavor: Butter-Rum.

Lifesavers - Butter-Rum 6-pack box side - 1960's

Growing up, Butter-Rum was my favorite flavor of Lifesavers, so when I became a collector, they held a special place in my heart.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to document a binder that was originally kept by an employee of Lifesavers, and passed down over the years.  Within its pages were years of wrapper samples, saved in order to keep a record of what had come before.  It is an extraordinary documentation, and it is unusual when things like this are kept, but so great when they are.

Lifesavers internal packaging sample binder - 1960's

This binder ended up with another marketing executive, who also happened to be a collector, and who was gracious enough to let me document the contents.  I may dedicate a later posting to this archive alone, or I may simply bring up bits and pieces along the way.

As I was going through this book, I came to a section dedicated to Butter-Rum wrappers, and then a page with a wrapper that looked just like Butter-Rum, but was called Butter-Yums.

Lifesavers - Butter-Rum and Butter-Yums roll wrappers - 1960's

I was immediately intrigued by this oddball wrapper that appeared to be a Butter-Rum wrapper, except for the name.  The binder also included wrappers created for sale in Mexico, but those wrappers were simply the regular wrapper in Spanish – pretty neat to see:

Mexico - Lifesavers Salvavidas - Butter Rum Mantequilla Ron - roll wrapper - 1960's

Now I had the standard wrapper in front of me, the exotic Spanish-language version, and the mysterious Butter-Yums.

My first thought was to go to the source – the Lifesavers company.  I went online and sent them an e-mail.  I did get a response back that they didn’t have records going back that far, and they could not tell me what the Butter-Yums wrapper was.  So, with the folks who owned the company, I hit a dead-end.

Not content to give up without an answer, I put the question to Don F., a candy-contact of mine that is a member of a group of former Beech-Nut/Lifesavers factory employees that get together for reunions.  Don was quick to reply, and explained the Butter-Yums quite simply:

“After Prohibition; Oregon, as well as North and South Dakota, had a law that you couldn’t sell anything with rum in it or the word rum in its name.”

So, the mystery was solved, or at least as solved as I was going to find.  The idea of Butter-Rums being renamed due to some anti-alcohol state laws makes pretty good sense.

Lifesavers Ad - Yo-Ho-Yum Pirate Kid Butter-Rum - 1957

Since we’re on the topic of Butter-Rum, I’ll wrap up with a bit of a timeline assortment of Butter-Rum wrappers I have:

Lifesavers - Butter-Rum roll wrapper timeline - 1940's - current


About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s My Google Profile+
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6 Responses to Prohibition Lifesavers: When Butter-Rum was Butter-Yum!

  1. Tom says:

    Butter Rum Lifesavers were always the first to go from my Christmas Lifesaver book. Eating something with the word “rum” in it felt like I was getting away with something.

  2. Mike J. says:

    The Spanish wrapper says something like ‘If it doesn’t have a hole, it’s no a Lifesaver.” Different from the English one.

  3. Sarah says:

    Do you know if the Pirate ad was done by Norman Rockwell? He has a very distinctive way of drawing human faces, and it sure looks like his Saturday Evening Post covers to me.

  4. Felix Soames says:

    I love Butter Rum Lifesavers, but they do not seem as intensely flavored as they were years ago. Back then, they had much more impact. Today … mellow.

  5. Yohane says:

    THANKS for the article! LOVE me some butter rum life savers!!! :D!

  6. Mary says:

    They used to be made in the good old USA. My present (2017) wrapper says made in Mexico. What a disappointment!

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