Atomic Fire Balls Inventor – A Lawyer and a Candyman

The first time a friend took me to Costco, the only bulk item I took home with me was a five pound jar of Atomic Fireballs.  I have adored those spicy orbs since I was a kid (when they cost a penny each). I’ve always loved how they are so hot, but not too hot – you may have to take a break, but eventually, with persistence, you can conquer the Fireball. And I love how they turn your mouth fire-engine red.  And the name.  Atomic.  Fireballs.

I was saddened to learn that the inventor of Atomic Fireballs, Nello Ferrara, died in his hometown of Chicago, on February 3, 2012 at the age of 93.

Nello Ferrara - Click photo for source

According to an obituary in the Chicago Sun Times, Nello’s father, Salvatore Ferrara, immigrated to the States from Italy and founded a candy company in 1908.  His specialty was “confetti” (the candy-coated almonds that are popular treats at Italian weddings).

Salvatore’s son, Nello, went to college and law school and then enlisted in the army.  Fortuitously,  Nello was posted to Japan right after the end of WWII.  It was there, in that atomic-bomb-devestated nation, that Nello got the idea for Atomic Fireballs.

After he returned to the States, Nello practiced law for a while, but the candy must have called to him because eventually, he joined his father’s  company, Ferrara Pan Candy Co.

In addition to inventing Fireballs, Nello also invented Lemonheads!

The obituary notes that “He joked he came up with the idea because his son was born with a head shaped like a lemon.”   In 1974, Nello was inducted into THE CANDY HALL OF FAME (where I should be if only they inducted candy-eaters in addition to candy industry leaders).

Nello’s son now runs the company, which produces a million pounds of candy a year, including such goodies as Red Hots (a favorite of the young Mike Donsky, Esq.) and Boston Baked Beans (an acquired taste, I believe).

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1 Response to “Atomic Fire Balls Inventor – A Lawyer and a Candyman”


  1. 1 Amandaferebee@hotmail.com December 7, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    My husband is addicted to the fireballs. We buy atleast 20 pounds a month! Would love to get him a huge lot of them for chritmas


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