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Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage.


From the Historic Division of MARS Incorporated


Part Six. Colonial and Federal Eras (part 2). Chapters 28-32.

Chapter 28 (Rose) considers the Dutch cacao/chocolate trade in the lower Hudson Valley of New York state during the 17th and 18th centuries, and traces purchases of raw commodities in the Caribbean to chocolate-processing in Holland, with subsequent export to North America during the colonial era. Chapter 29 (McCombs) builds upon the Dutch experience and further examines chocolate manufacturing in the upper Hudson Valley, especially the development and expansion of cocoa processing in Albany, New York. Chapter 30 (Gay) considers the rise and development of chocolate manufacturing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and explores business relationships that evolved among chocolate makers, the impacts of war and peace during the Revolutionary era on sales and the changing complexity of chocolate manufacturing in this important Colonial North American city. Chapter 31 (Westbrook, Fox, and McCarty) considers military aspects of chocolate use during the Colonial Era and Revolutionary War within the Northern Frontier, especially its role as a dietary component and medical product used at Fort Ticonderoga, New York. Chapter 32 (Kelly) considers chocolate as a product commonly part of provisions taken aboard 19th century whaling ships, and how chandlers and grocers in New Bedford, Massachusetts, obtained and supplied chocolate for long-term whaling voyages.

Part Seven. Southeast/Southwest Borderlands and California.
Chapters 33-35.

Chapter 33 (Cabezon, Barriga, Grivetti) describes the earliest documented uses of chocolate in North America, associated with Spanish Florida (St. Augustine). Chocolate-related documents reveal other introductions through Texas, New Mexico, into Arizona, and show both religious and military uses of chocolate as desired energy and pleasurable products within this geographical region of the continent. The authors also identify how chocolate was used as a reward and provided to friendly Native American populations during the early years of Spanish colonization. Chapter 34 (Grivetti, Barriga, Cabezon) considers the introduction and spread of cocoa and chocolate in California, from the time of earliest European exploration, through the Mexican period, to the eve of the California Gold Rush. Their chapter draws heavily on chocolate-content in original letters penned by Franciscan Fathers who were responsible for much of the distribution of chocolate and chocolate products in California. Chapter 35 (Gordon) continues the California chocolate story and explores its use during the Gold Rush and Post-Gold Rush Eras when chocolate played important roles in miners’ food patterns, and in the social life of mid-19th century San Francisco. His chapter concludes with an examination of California chocolate manufacturing from its beginnings to a place of prominence in the 21st century.



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Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage.

Chapter 28

Author: Peter Rose

Title: Dutch Cacao Trade in New Netherland During the 17th and 18th Centuries. Flag of the Dutch West India Company

In 1609 Henry Hudson explored the river that would receive his name. The Dutch West India Company encouraged settlers to the new province of New Netherland. The settlers plied the fur trade but raised foods to outfit ships that were part of the Dutch trade network and some of this trade was in cacao. Trade in cacao between New Amsterdam (New York) and the Caribbean brought beans to North America in enormous cargoes that ranged from 5,000-485,000 pounds. Merchants in New York City and the Hudson Valley served cacao to their guests as noted in numerous accounts. Within the Hudson Valley at New Paltz, Huguenots were active in the cacao/chocolate trade as noted in receipts and ledger books during the late 18th century. Archaeological excavations at the Dann Site, Seneca Iroquois location in New York State, revealed that white earthenware chocolate cups were imported to this region during the mid 17th century. Chinese export porcelain chocolate pots also became popular in the region.

Chapter 29

Author: W. Douglas McCombs

Title: Chocolate Consumption and Production in New York’s Upper Hudson River Valley (1730-1830).

Chocolate was available in the port city of New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River, by at least the early 18th century, as demonstrated in the numerous account books showing the sale of chocolate by city merchants. Farther north along the upper stretches of the Hudson River at Albany and along the Mohawk River in Schenectady, surviving documents reveal a similar availability of chocolate by the 1730s. In Albany, chocolate not only was old by storeowners; it was ground and processed at mill sites near town beginning around 1750 and continuing well into the 19th century. An examination of the sale and production of chocolate in the Upper Hudson Valley offers a window onto a burgeoning consumer economy that had links to both trans-Atlantic trade as well as emerging markets within the newly established United States. Albany Institute documents confirm the early availability of chocolate in the Upper Hudson Valley. A single receipt for Captain Peter Winne (1690-1759) lists two separate purchases of chocolate, both of considerable size, indicating they were probably intended for wholesale to an Albany merchant or merchants. By the 1750s, chocolate was readily obtainable in Albany. An account book for Albany merchant and trader Harmen Van Heusen abounds with sales of chocolate between 1758 and 1760. Albany residents also had the opportunity to buy freshly ground chocolate from about 1790 to about 1830, and a source of locally ground chocolate probably existed as early as 1750. Although the Upper Hudson Valley rested on the edge of a vast frontier throughout most of the 18th century, residents from its flourishing communities did not need to abstain from tasting the delightful, bittersweet flavor of chocolate. Merchants and traders supplied the delicious commodity on a fairly regular basis, although periodically shortages may have limited consumers’ access to it. By the end of the 18th century, Albany could boast having one of the largest, best-equipped chocolate mills in the nation, which provided freshly ground chocolate for both local consumers and more distant markets in Canada and elsewhere. The availability of chocolate in Albany and other communities in the Upper Hudson Valley allowed regional consumers to participate in a broader national and international market, while reaffirming connections to European social practices and cultural customs. 


From the Historic Division of MARS Incorporated

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Chocolate: A Readex Sampler, part one.

By Louis E. Grivetti, co-editor of Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (Wiley, 2009).

Between the years 1998-2008 my large research team had the good fortune to be funded by a generous grant from Mars, Incorporated, to investigate the culinary, medicinal, and social history of chocolate (1). Our initial research focused on chocolate-related information from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and the transfer of medical-related uses of chocolate into Western Europe. Between the years 2004-2008 our research shifted to the introduction, distribution, and social uses of chocolate within North America. To this end we paid special attention to cacao/chocolate-related aspects of agronomy, anthropology, archaeology and art history, culinary arts, diet and nutrition, economics, ethnic and gender studies, geography, history, legal and medical issues, and social uses.

Our research team drew extensively on Colonial Era and Federal Era documents available through Early American Newspapers, especially chocolate/cacao-related advertisements, articles, price currents, obituaries, and shipping news documents. As a scholar who formerly spent months using microfilm documents—winding and re-winding reels searching for specific documents on specific dates—I report here that the new technologies available through Readex have made my work and that of my students a hundred times easier. Now, with a click of our computer “mice,” team members can retrieve thousands of documents that previously would have taken weeks to amass.

Presented here are examples that provide a brief “taste” of these chocolate-related documents.


Chocolate manufacturing required roasting and preparing cacao beans prior to milling, and fires were commonplace. Boston chocolate-maker Daniel Jacobs lost not only his business but his house:

The building … contained, besides the furniture, provisions, &c. 3,000 lb. of cocoa, and several 100 lb. of chocolate, which were nearly or quite all destroyed. The loss, at a moderate computation, is said to amount to Fire Hundred Pounds, lawful money (Boston Post Boy, March 30th, 1772, page 3).

Lack of adult supervision of children sometimes led to terrible consequences as with this tragic report:

One morning last week a child about 3 years old accidentally overset a large sauce-pan of hot chocolate into its bosom, whereby it was so terribly scalded that it died soon after (Boston Evening Post, December 2nd, 1765, page 3).


Brothers Bossenor and William Foster, mid 18th-century Boston merchants, repeatedly had bad luck as their establishment was burglarized several times:

Whereas some evil-minded person or persons have again broke open the store of the subscribers, on Spear’s Wharf, and last night took from thence a number of articles amongst which was two firkins butter, about 50 or 60 lb. of chocolate mark’d W. Call, and S. Snow, half a barrel of coffee, nine or ten pair lynn shoes, some cocoa and sugar. (The Boston News-Letter and New-England Chronicle, February 9th, 1769, page 2).

Unscrupulous chocolate manufacturers sometimes “extended” their products by adding brick dust, chalk, and other items. Joseph Mann fought against this trend and criticized merchants who defrauded customers:

Joseph Mann … sells Chocolate, which will be warranted free of any Adulteration, likewise New-England Mustard, manufactured by said Mann, who will be glad of the Continuance of his former Customers, and thankfully receive the Favour [sic] of others (Boston Post Boy, March 6th, 1769, page 2).


The 1764 Boston smallpox epidemic struck in January and by February a number of chocolate merchants relocated to the periphery of the city to escape the pox. Rebecca Walker, manager of a general store opposite the Blue-ball near Mill Bridge, relocated to Roxbury where she resided at the home of Nathaniel Felton, Scythe-Maker, and sold:

All sorts of garden seeds imported in the last ship from London … Peas, beans, red and white clover and other grass seeds; hemp seed; Cheshire Cheese; Flour of Mustard; Jordan Almonds; Florence Oyl; split and boiling Peas; Stone and Glass Ware; Chimney Tiles; Kippen’s Snuff; Pipes, Spices, Sugar, Chocolate; English and Scotch GOODS, &c. (Boston Gazette and Country Journal, February 20th, 1764, page 4).

By early summer 1764 brothers John and Thomas Stevenson sought to offset the public’s smallpox fears through creative advertising. They announced that the disease was due to contaminated goods that entered the port of Boston—but if vessels were off-loaded elsewhere and merchandise transported overland, such items would be “free of the Infection of the Small-Pox” (The Boston Evening Post, June 25th, 1764, page 4).


An anonymous pastor identified only as “TW” complained of high prices for food and life essentials. He described his living conditions in 1747 and longed for earlier days in 1707 when he purchased items at inexpensive rates: butter (6 pence/pound), cheese (2 pence/pound), dozen eggs (2 pence), beef and mutton (2 ½ pence/pound), pork and veal (3 pence/pound), sugar (6 pence/pound), chocolate (2 shillings & 6 pence = 18 pence/pound), and molasses (1 shilling & 10 pence = 22 pence/gallon). His concerns documented the importance of chocolate as an expensive but essential dietary item (The Boston Evening Post, December 14th, 1747, p. 2).

An anonymous letter written in 1728 also complained of high prices. He stated that at one time his family of eight needed only 12 shillings/week for food but with current high prices he was unable to supply his family essentials, such as butter, cheese, sugar, coffee, tea, and chocolate and that he also could not afford cider, fruits, liquor, tobacco, or wine. He lamented that his economic deprivations made it impossible to be hospitable and to perform acts of charity (New England Weekly Journal, November 25th, 1728, page 2).


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