Chocolate In Early America

Chris Magra's picture

Does anyone have any good leads on chocolate in early America?  Can you recommend secondary or primary sources?  Is there someone I should contact about this?

I would appreciate any information you can provide.

Thank you!

- Chris Magra, University of Tennessee

Mars Corporation has done some work on this subject and helped a non profit organization in Boston set up an historic demonstration exhibit. Contact Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop, 21 Unity St, Boston, MA 02113. Telephone; (617) 523-4848.

This is just one specific incident, not a lead for broad discussion of chocolate, but it might suggest some interesting topics for investigation. In 1739 a Boston seller of chocolate complained that someone was selling an inferior product with a forgery of his brand mark (and calling it his). He offers a reward for identification of the seller, and announces that he is changing his "mark". A year earlier his chocolate was also being counterfeited, and he informed readers how his was marked.

Boston Gazette, 1739 Feb. 12, 3/2; and 1738 Jan. 2, 4/1.

Joel Berson

UC Davis Professor Emeritus Louis Grivetti—co-editor of Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (Wiley, 2009)—used Early American Newspapers to explore diverse aspects of chocolate in early America in "Chocolate: A Readex Sampler" (The Readex Report, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2011).

In that article found here, Grivetti focuses on Colonial and Federal era newspaper articles of all kinds.

Best wishes,

David Loiterstein, Readex Marketing Director,


I recently did some research on this topic for Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY as part of a grant from Mars Corporation, which was looking for the museum to expand its American Heritage Chocolate programming.

I posted my summary of the research on here:

I hope this proves helpful.

Richard D. Deverell, M.A.

Have you considered looking at the material culture of chocolate drinking? for example here's a pot in the MFA Boston that indicates the conviviality of chocolate drinking, the value it held, and also demonstrates an awareness of the trade relationship between the colony and Mexico. There are lots of stories around the material culture that you could investigate.

In 1697 Samuel Sewall visited William Stoughton, lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sewall observed that they had “breakfast together on Venison and Chockalatte,” and that “Massachusetts and Mexico met at his Honour’s Table.” A few years later, Stoughton left twelve pounds in his will to his niece, Sarah Byfield Tailer, with the stipulation that she acquire a piece of silver as a “particular remembrance” of him. Stoughton died in 1701, and Mrs. Tailer apparently commissioned Coney to make this chocolate pot-the earliest American example known-in fulfillment of his bequest.

Engraved on bottom "The gift of Wm. Stoughton Esquire to Mrs. Sara Tailer: 1701"

Dear Dan, David, and Joel,

Thank you for your helpful suggestions and references! I did not know there was counterfeit chocolate in circulation in colonial Massachusetts. Nor did I know that chocolate was a part of colonists' diets as early as 1707. I would love to travel to Boston to visit Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop.

Chris Magra
The University of Tennessee

Dear Richard and PJ,

Thank you both for sharing some research. Richard, I just applied for that MARS grant. I hope I am as successful as you at getting this funding! PJ, this is a fantastic bit of knowledge that helps me connect the sorts of things Marcy Norton discussed in her excellent book on chocolate with the business history I'm interested in writing about early America.

Would both of you please contact me by email to tell me about your own research? I would love to have an extended conversation.

Chris Magra
The University of Tennessee