Unwrapping the history of Louisville’s Modjeska

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We’ve got a holiday treat for you to be thankful for today + its graced local families’ tables for generations.

It’s the Modjeska from Muth’s Candies. This pillowy piece of marshmallow enveloped in sticky caramel is named for the Polish actress Madame Helena Modrzejewska, who specialized in playing Shakespearean and tragic roles. It’s also Muth’s bestselling candy by far + a cherished confection of Louisville lore.

Professionally known as Helena Modjeska, the superstar actress was born in 1840 in Krakow, Poland. She immigrated to the U.S. in the 1870s where she noted in her memoir, “Memories and Impressions of Helena Modjeska,” that she was taken with visiting Louisville.

Around the same time, French immigrant Anton Busath moved to Louisville and opened a candy store on 4th Street called Busath’s Candy Store near Macauley’s Theatre — today the Starks Building — where Helena performed.

Anton admired Madame Modjeska’s beauty and talent and after seeing her performances, he asked her if he could name his new “caramel marshmallow wonder” after her. When she agreed, she sent a signed portrait of herself to Anton, which hung in his shop until a fire in 1947.

The portrait survived — and lives on in the Filson Historical Society — but Busath’s Candy Store didn’t. Here’s where Rudy Muth comes in.

Rudy, a friend of Anton’s son Edgar, let the Busath family use his kitchen to craft their Christmas candies. When the Busaths decided not to reopen their store, they gifted the Modjeska recipe to Rudy as a gift for sharing his kitchen.

Today, the third + fourth generations of the Muth family craft the Modjeskas by hand, using the same techniques as Anton, Rudy + Edgar at Muth’s Candies on Market Street. The only difference is now, you can get your Modjeska rolled in chocolate or dipped in nuts while the caramel is still warm.

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