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Saturday, May 25, 2013


Fire Plug (Fleer Chewing Gum) 

Reis O'Brien

The first product that Fleer Chewing Gum approved was the Fireplug.  The success was about the same as I had experienced at Topps.  Millions of Fireplugs were sold during the first year which resulted in a boom in sales of the entire product line.

  I was told that the Boy Scout Association had shown interest in the Fireplug because it made for a great water tight match container.  The fireplug was the first  "DOG APPROVED" candy.  It was a natural to have candy dogs in the fireplug.  The sketches of the puppies were done by a young teenage artist, Mike Simonetti.  Mike, a friend of my son, was an extremely gifted artist for his age..or any age.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Consulting Design Practice    1975

Now separated from the security of Topps Chewing Gum, I began looking for clients in the confectionery field because I enjoyed the work.  Most of the contacts were quite interested but backed away realizing the upfront investment was too large a risk.  Only Fleer Gum was interested probably because the company was on its way out of business due to lack of sales.  The Vice President of new products Mr. Thomas A. Tegan was successful in convincing Mr. Al Peck the CEO to make the last ditch effort and he approved the investment in tooling.  As it turned out, it was the best decision they ever made.  The business turnaround at Fleers was so well received that Forbes magazine did a story on them.

At the time, all this design activity was executed with paper and pencil.  CAD software and email systems were not available to the general design public.  I illustrated the ideas as accurately as possible when submitting for approval.  When approved, I converted the idea into a mechanical drawing so the toolmakers could accurately reproduce the desired thoughts behind the product.  My combined skills as an artist and that of an engineer made it possible for dimensionally accurate drawings of the desired concept.

Original Fireplug Candy container drawing submitted to Fleer

I have been asked many times how I came up with my container ideas.  I hadn’t given it much thought except that being a kid at heart helped.  As a child, growing up in South Philadelphia, playing around fire plugs (hydrants) was almost a daily activity.  They were found everywhere in the old neighborhood.  I believe that memory led me to design the Fire Plug container.  The intricate grooved surface texture was the result of planed tooling paths as well as good molding practice.  Once again my combined abilities of an artist and engineer resulted in a good design and a practical configuration that reduced the tooling cost and eased the product into molding production.