Russell William STOVER (1888 - 1954)

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Nicknames: "Russell /STOVER/", "Russell /Stover/"
Place of Burial: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Birthplace: Alton, Kansas
Death: Died in Dade, Florida, United States
Managed by: Gene
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Russell William STOVER

Russell Stover (May 6, 1888 – May 11, 1954) was the founder of the Russell Stover Candies. Stover was born in a sod house south of Alton, Kansas in Osborne County, Kansas. His family moved to Iowa City, Iowa where he attended Iowa City Academy and a year and a half at Iowa State University where he studied chemistry.

Russell William Stover was born May 6, 1888, in a sod house in Alton, Kan., when his parents, John and Sarah, moved there from Iowa to seek their fortune. They returned to farm near Iowa City after a Kansas drought dimmed their hopes.

Little Russell had two sisters, and his mother died when he was not yet 2 years old.

Clara Mae Lewis, the daughter of Lorenzo "Wren" Lewis and his wife, Mary Ann, was born in 1882 and grew up on a farm four miles from Oxford . She had three sisters and a baby brother.

At 18, Lewis borrowed $300 from a neighboring bachelor so that she could enroll in music studies at Iowa City Academy. Stover also attended the academy, then took one year of chemistry at the University of Iowa before their fateful meeting over ice cream in the sweets shop on Clinton Street across from Old Capitol on campus.

Stover had left the U of I after one year to become a salesman in Chicago, first with a candy manufacturer and then for the American Tobacco Company.

In her book "The Life of Russell Stover — An American Success Story," (written with Phil A. Koury, 1957), Clara Stover recalled her impressions of Russell Stover before their actual meeting:

"There was a young man I frequently passed in the corridors or on campus on my way to classes. He was tall, his eyes were blue, his hair black and curly. ... he was one of the more industrious students."

Stover adds that her future husband had a "winsome smile" and a "puckish sense of humor."

After a courtship, Stover set up plans for the couple to farm in Canada after their marriage, which took place in Chicago on June 17, 1911. Then they moved to near Hume in Saskatchewan, struggling to make a living by growing wheat and flax before their farm effort failed within a year.

In 1911 he married Clara Lewis and they moved to a 580-acre (2.3 km2) farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, which they received as a wedding gift. In 1912 they moved to Winnipeg and then went to work for a Minnesota candy company and then candy company A.G. Morris in Chicago. In 1918 he moved to Des Moines where he worked for Irwin Candy Co. and they moved to Omaha, Nebraska On July 31, 1921 Christian Nelson of Onawa, Iowa pitched the concept of mass producing a chocolate covered ice cream treat called the I-Scream Bar. Seven companies had rejected it earlier because it easily melted. Nelson patented it on January 24, 1922. The agreement was signed on the letterhead of Graham Ice Cream Company of Omaha.

Stover went into partnership with Nelson renaming it the Eskimo Pie and taking out the stick to make it a sandwich. The pie immediately became so successful they couldn't keep up with demand and licensed it to 1,500 manufacturers in exchange for 4 cents for every four dozen sold.

The treat was marketed under the brand of Russell Stover Company. The New York Times claimed they were receiving $30,000 a week in royalties in the first year.

Many manufacturers then came up with similar but different processes for making the pies and at one point they were paying $4,000/day in legal fees to defend their patent which they ultimately lost. They sold the company for $30,000 in 1924 and moved to Denver, Colorado where they operated "Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candies" which operated out of Clara's kitchen in their bungalow. In 1925 they opened a candy factory in Denver and another one in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1931 he moved the headquarters to Kansas City.

When he died in 1954 it was producing 11 million pounds of candy annually through 40 Russell Stover shops and in about 2,000 department stores.

His wife would operate it until 1960 when it was sold to Louis Ward who would transform the regional brand into an international company. The Ward family still owns the brand which keeps the Russell Stover brand.


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Russell STOVER's Timeline

Alton, Kansas
June 17, 1911
Age 23
Age 66
Dade, Florida, United States
Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Kansas City, Jackson Co., Missouri