Clarence A. Crane spent his youth in Garrettsville, Ohio. His father produced maple sugar. After a courtship of only two months, Clarence Crane married Grace Edna Hart on June 1, 1898. The following summer, the couple's only child was born, poet Harold Hart Crane. The Cranes' marriage was a difficult one. Grace Crane suffered from mental illness, and the couple separated on several occasions. The marriage finally ended in divorce on April 7, 1917.
Despite his troubled personal life, Crane prospered as a businessman. He worked for his father until 1903, when he formed his own maple sugar business in Warren, Ohio. Crane's company quickly emerged as the largest producer of maple sugar in the world. In 1909, Crane sold the business, but he continued to work for the firm as a salesman in Cleveland, Ohio, for the next two years. In 1911, Crane began to produce chocolate candy in Cleveland. His company was known as the Queen Victoria Chocolate Company.
In 1912, Crane created a new type of candy. He realized that many people refused to buy chocolate during the summer months, because chocolate melted easily in the heat. To produce the new candy, the chocolate maker used a machine that pharmacists utilized to manufacture round flat pills. He then punched a hole in the middle of the candy, making it resemble a life preserver. Crane called his new candy Life Savers.
Initially, Life Savers only came in peppermint flavor. Crane marketed the candy, known as Pep-O-Mint Life Savers, as a breath mint, claiming on the packaging that it was "For That Stormy Breath." Originally, Crane packaged the candy in cardboard tubes. The wrapper had a picture of a sailor tossing a young woman a life preserver.
In 1913, Crane sold the rights to Life Savers to two New York candy manufacturers. These new producers wrapped Life Savers in foil tubes to better preserve the candy. They also marketed the candy to saloon owners, hoping that customers would use Life Savers to improve their breath after drinking and smoking in the bars. Once saloon owners began selling the candy, Life Savers soared in popularity. Today, Kraft Foods, Inc., manufactures the candy. Due to the cheaper cost of sugar in Canada, in 2003, Kraft Foods began to manufacture Life Savers exclusively in Canada.
Crane remained involved in the candy business for the remainder of his life, although he no longer manufactured Life Savers after 1913. He formed the Crane Chocolate Company in 1916. While the company was headquartered in Cleveland, by 1921, the firm had sales offices in New York City, New York, and Kansas City, Missouri. Crane died on July 6, 1931.