Mike and Ike has been a candy shop staple since 1940, when it was introduced by Just Born, the same company that created Hot Tamales and Peeps. Chewy and candy coated, the confection comes in five flavors: cherry, lemon, strawberry, lime, and orange. Ever since first encountering these candies as children, we’ve had a nagging question in our minds: Who exactly are Mike and Ike?
The answer is not cut and dry, unfortunately, but there are a few competing theories; in all likelihood, the name is a (now obscure) cultural reference of some sort. Some claim that it was a reference to a Rube Goldberg comic strip called “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike),” but that strip reached peak popularity in the 1920s and was gone by 1940. It might also have been a nod to the three Matina Brothers, two of whom were known as “Mike and Ike” after they relocated to the U.S. from Hungary; all three were cast as munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and some have suggested they were popular enough performers to have a candy brand named after them. There was also a popular vaudeville song of the era called “Mike and Ike (The Twins).”
We reached out to JustBorn for comment, and in lieu of a quote a representative pointed us to the company website, which states, “There have been varying theories over the years, but according to our company historian, Mike and Ike are the founders of the MIKE AND IKE® candy brand. The candy is named after them.” This sadly seems just a bit improbable.
So in all actuality, it appears as if the term “Mike and Ike” was simply floating around in the collective consciousness of the day, and Just Born’s marketing folks picked up on that and named their candy after it. It’s not a truly fascinating tale, but then again, few candy name origins are.