Bill Harmsen was one of the creators of the Jolly Rancher candy.
Bill Harmsen was born on June 20, 1912, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and died on April 10, 2002 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado from prostate cancer at the age of 90. Dorothy Harmsen was born on September 13, 1914 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and died on August 29, 2006 of a heart attack at age 91. After their deaths, they were survived by three children.
The couple moved to Denver, Colorado in 1942. In 1949, they opened a candy store in Golden, Colorado called the Jolly Rancher, named after the Jolly Miller, a hotel in their hometown of Minneapolis. Unhappy with local candy suppliers, they decided to make their own candy, which led to the creation of Jolly Rancher candy. The Harmsens ran a very successful company for almost 21 years before selling it to Beatrice Foods in 1966, with Bill Harmsen residing as president until 1977. The Company was purchased by Hershey in 1996, and Jolly Rancher has become one of America's favorite hard candies with over a dozen flavors and millions sold since their creation.
Life After the Jolly Rancher
After his leaving the business, the Harmsens became even more involved in collecting Western Art. Some of the pieces in their collection included works by artists such as Alfred Miller, George Catlin, Joseph H. Sharp, Victor Higgins, Frederic Remington, and Robert Henri. Later in life, they donated tracts of land to the Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado. In 2001, the couple donated close to 5,000 pieces of art and American West memorabilia to the Denver Art Museum.
- Bill Harmsen profile at Internet Accuracy Project
- Dorothy Harmsen
- Golden Pioneer Museum
- Jolly Rancher - Official site