Greenwich has been the home of many important and creative business people. One of those people was Robert Peckham Noble.
Mr. Noble was born in 1881 and lived in Gouverneur NY. He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1903. Robert moved to Greenwich in 1920, and lived in Belle Haven. He eventually built an estate - Three Oaks - on Round Hill Road. In 1923, he and his brother, Edward, bought the formula for Lifesavers candy from a candymaker - Clarence Crane of Ohio. Crane had invented the hard, circular candy as a summer treat in 1912. He wanted something that wouldn't melt like chocolate in warm temperatures. His packaging, however, left something to be desired; he packaged them in cardboard tubes, which caused the candy to stick. He also lacked the resources to mass produce the product.
Crane sold the candy formula to Robert and Edward Noble in 1913 for $2,900. This was the birth of the Life Savers Candy Company. Their available capital totaled $900. While Robert was an engineering genius, Edward was a marketing whiz. Robert designed an aluminum foil and wax paper wrapper, which kept the candy from sticking. In the beginning, the white, opaque mints had no center hole. They started in a 1-room Manhattan loft with 6 girls, and ended up building a multi-story factory in Port Chester. Robert had been an engineer for a while at Westinghouse. He designed and helped direct the building of the factory. Many people remember the building, which had large facsimiles of different kinds of rolls to advertise the product.
There have been many flavors of Life Savers over the years. The original products were WintOgreen, CinnOmon, PepOmint, ClOve, LicOriche, ChocOlate. Then, in 1921, MaltOmilk was added, along with some solid fruit drops (Orange, Lemon, Lime). By 1925, there was technology to insert a hole in the center. CrystOmint, Anise, Butter Rum, Cola, and Root Beer were added. A menthol "Cough Drop" was introduced in 1931, but wasn't very popular. However, a new Pineapple and Cherry were very successful. Then in 1935, a five-flavor roll was introduced. Each roll contained Pineapple, Lime, Orange, Cherry and Lemon candy. During World War II, other candy companies doanted their sugar to the Life Savers Corpooration so that the company could send candy to the soldiers overseas. It was something they could easily carry.
Noble was vice president and secretary from 1916 to 1949, president from 1949 to 1955, and chairman of the board until 1956. When the Life Saver Corporation merged with the Beech Nut Corporation in 1956, he became vice chairman of the board. He retired in 1964.
Robert Noble was very civic-minded. He was Director of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, member of the Greenwich Academy board, director of the Greenwich Boys Club, and trustee of Greenwich Hospital. In the 1930s, he served as Commodore of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club. He stayed active in business as a director of the Putnam Trust Company, and president and director of the Allied Industries Inc. Mr. Noble passed away in 1973.
As a child, I remember receiving a "Life Saver Sweet Story" book every Christmas. It conatined ten rolls in a cardboard box designed like a book. I looked forward to it every year. I guess I owe a debt of thanks to Robert Noble and his brother, Edward, for their vision and ingenuity. As my grandparents used to say, even during the Depression, families found money to buy candy for the kids. I can envision soldiers during the War popping a life saver into their mouths. It was a small treat to make people forget about hard times. Life savers are indeed a part of American history.
SOURCE: The Greenwich Time (Hearst Corporation)