Bob Born was an unlikely hero of the confectionary world. A Pennsylvania confectioner, Bob was the mastermind behind the marshmallow candies known as Peeps, which have become an Easter staple and a pop culture phenomenon. But what is even more remarkable is how Bob, with a degree in engineering physics from nearby Lehigh University, designed and built a machine to automate the production of Peeps from 27 hours to just six minutes. From the gluttony of eating them to the cruelty of microwaving them to the creative genius of making dioramas with them, Bob’s Peeps have become a beloved part of Easter and beyond.
Bob Born was born on September 29, 1924, in Brooklyn to a Russian native confectioner. His father, Sam Born, founded Just Born Quality Confections, the company Bob would eventually lead. Just Born’s best seller is Mike and Ike, the bullet-shaped fruit chews, but Peeps are by far its most recognized, and its best loved. Thanks to Bob’s mass-production equipment, the company makes more than 5.5 million Peeps a day, or close to two billion a year.
Peeps bring out a particular cruelty in some, from sticking them in the microwave to watch them expand and explode to putting them in vacuum tanks to watch them shrink. But they also bring out creativity, with the Washington Post’s Peeps-based diorama competition getting 600 entries with themes like “We Come in Peeps,” “The Ides of Marshmallow” and “Sweety Todd: The Demon Barber of Peep Street.”
Bob Born was an innovator and a leader, and his work at Just Born helped make Peeps the beloved treat it is today. Bob passed away in January of 2021 at the age of 98, but his legacy lives on with Peeps. From the gluttony of eating them to the cruelty of microwaving them to the creative genius of making dioramas with them, Bob’s Peeps have become a beloved part of Easter and beyond.