Even before they declared their independence from England, the American colonists were making chocolate. Physician Dr. James Baker and Irish immigrant John Hannon opened New England’s first chocolate factory in 1765 at a water-powered mill in Massachusetts. Baker’s Chocolate sold hard cakes of chocolate that the colonists ground and mixed with boiling water to make hot chocolate.
Chocolate was considered a staple, and it was made in America. The colonists imported only the raw materials, cocoa beans, from the West Indies. After the Townshend Acts of 1767 levied taxes on shipments of tea, drinking chocolate became patriotic.
While all classes drank chocolate, higher society followed the English tradition of serving it from china and sterling silver pots, mirroring the Mayans’ penchant for elaborate, artistic vessels. In Colonial America, these prized pots were often stolen, as was finished chocolate.
During the Revolutionary War, Americans also copied the ancients’ practice of using cacao as food for its fighters, including it in rations. The war presented some challenges to the colonists’ chocolate habits, however, as cacao had to be smuggled past British warships. For similar reasons, Baker’s Chocolate was closed for two years during the War of 1812.
In the United States, chocolate production proceeded more rapidly than anywhere else in the world.
In 1849, Domingo Ghirardelli began selling chocolate to Gold Rush miners, and in 1852 he opened a factory in San Francisco. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is America’s longest continuously operating chocolate manufacturer.
Chocolate became more affordable after Milton Hershey visited the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, bought equipment to make a chocolate coating for his caramels and later began mass producing milk chocolate bars at low prices. In 1905, to be near farms that could supply fresh milk, he opened a new chocolate factory in Pennsylvania that would become the world’s largest.
Chocolate came into vogue as a baking ingredient in the early 20th century. In 1917, The Candy Cookbook
Americans’ love of chocolate is so strong that they have carried it around this world—and into others.
During World War I, the United States Army Quartermaster Corps shipped 20- to 40-pound blocks of chocolate to Army bases in Europe, where they were chopped into individual sizes and inspired today’s candy bars. The U.S. government included chocolate bars in rations for the Allied Armed Forces during World War II and still provides chocolate to the U.S. Armed Forces. Chocolate even has gone into space with U.S. astronauts.
Cacao beans were so valuable to early Mesoamericans that they were used as currency.