So many people come in our candy store on a daily basis and ask for our Modjeska. (Or as some people say moojeski, majestic, even “those famous marshmallow candies.”) A delicious deluxe marshmallow covered in a rich buttery caramel. Most people who come in know that it is a Louisville specialty candy but what they don’t know is the story behind the difficult to pronounce name. So here is the story that has been passed down through four generations of Muths as to how the Modjeska candy came to be in our store.
Madam Helena Modrzejewska was a Polish actress born in 1840 who immigrated to the US in the mid 1870s for “personal and political reasons”. Madam Modjeska appeared in several plays in Louisville during the late 1800s, including “Camille” and “Thora” (later named A Doll’s House). According to her book Memories and Impressions of Helena Modjeska, she was very “taken” with Louisville and enjoyed coming here. It was during the same time period that Anton Busath came to Louisville from Alsace, France. He started a candy store on Louisville’s then famous Fourth St. near McCaully Theater where Helena performed.
It was nearly six years after Helena’s last performance in Louisville that Anton Busath perfected his “caramel marshmallow wonder.” Since Busath had been so close to the theater and seen Helena he knew what a beautiful and talented woman she was and asked if he could name his creation after her, and with her blessing he named the candy Modjeska. In gratitude Helena sent Anton an autographed portrait of herself. This portrait hung in Busath’s Candy Store on fourth street until a fire that destroyed the building in 1947.
In late 1947, when the fire destroyed Busath’s Candy Store on Fourth Street Edgar Busath (Anton’s son) asked a good friend Rudy Muth (a confectioner with a store on East Market St) if he could use Rudy’s kitchen to make candy for his family and close friends for Christmas. Rudy agreed and the two shared the kitchen. When the holidays were over and the Busath family could not reopen their store on Fourth St. they decided if they couldn’t be on 4th street they did not want to reopen. After the decision to not reopen as a thank you for sharing his kitchen Edgar Busath gave Rudy the recipe for the Modjeska.
Today almost six decades later our third and fourth generations continue to make the modjeska the same way as Rudy did all those years ago. We still use copper kettles, only the best ingredients, and we still hand dip/wrap the Modjeska. Along with the original wrapped modjeska we also cover them in chocolate and sometimes roll them in pecans when they are still warm! So next time you’re in our small corner of the world stop in an try this delicious candy. We promise you wont regret it!
P.S. Her portrait survived the fire and today it hangs in the Filson Club (Historical Society) in Louisville KY.