Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

American Chocolate Classics

May 19, 2020

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Oreo Cookie Milk Pitcher, 1985-1995. THF125197


There's something special about chocolate. It makes us feel better when we're down, gives us energy when we're tired, even evokes memories of long-ago childhood experiences. In fact, this "feel-good" food contains more than 300 known chemicals that act upon the brain to uplift our mood, increase alertness, reduce stress, and possibly even enhance memory. Indeed, it seems apt that chocolate's scientific name, Theobrama cacao, means "food of the gods"--a reference to its use in ancient Mayan and Aztec ceremonies.

The history of chocolate in America is filled with unique and significant innovations--innovations that transformed this food from an elite luxury to an affordable and appealing staple in almost everyone's diet. Read on to learn more about a few "feel-good" classics from America's rich chocolate heritage.

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Recipe Booklet, "Favorite Chocolate Recipes made with Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate," 1940. THF125194


Chocolate Chip Cookies
In the late 1930s, Ruth Wakefield “invented” the chocolate chip cookie while baking some of her favorite cookies. Wakefield was a dietitian and food lecturer until she and her husband opened the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. At the Toll House, she served home-cooked meals for tourists and local customers.

One day, she added cut-up bits from a Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate bar into her butter cookie dough. The rest is history. The huge popularity of Ruth Wakefield's new, mouth-watering cookie eventually led Nestle's to mass produce chocolate morsels, and to include her recipe for Toll House cookies on the back of every package. Chocolate chip cookies would become America's favorite home-baked cookie.

Bosco Drink Mix Advertisement, 1963, "What New Bosco and a Shaker Will Do for You" . THF125198

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Bosco® Chocolate Syrup

If you're a Baby Boomer, chances are that the word "Bosco®" almost immediately brings to mind the jingle from the old television commercial, beginning with the verse: 

I love Bosco®,
It's rich and chocolate-y;
Chocolate-flavored Bosco®
Is mighty good for me.

The advertisement pictured here was a direct appeal to the moms of these TV-watching kids. It not only promised a convenient shaker, but claimed that the new recipe was "super-fortified" for healthy, growing children.

Bosco®, introduced in 1928, was apparently no match for the products of the more dominant brands, like Hershey's chocolate syrup (1926) and Nestle's Quik (1948). Yet, Bosco® not only still exists, but is happily living on in our popular culture--its jingle was even included in the soundtrack of the movie Shrek 2.

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Nabisco Oreo Cookies Advertisement, "Oh! Oh! OREO!," 1951 . THF125200

Oreos®
Youngsters from virtually every generation of the last century have been able to enjoy an Oreo® cookie dipped in a glass of whole milk, or have mischievously "unscrewed" the chocolate disks of an Oreo® to eat its creamy center. Oreo® cookies were introduced by Nabisco in 1912, to compete with the British "biscuit"-type cookies that Nabisco claimed were too "ordinary." The first Oreos® were available with either lemon meringue or white cream filling.

Over 500 billion Oreo® cookies have been sold since they were first introduced, making them the best-selling cookie of the 20th century.

S'mores
Chocolate seems to blend perfectly with crispy Graham crackers and soft, puffy marshmallows. Products combining these three ingredients have been around for almost a century, including Mallomars (Nabisco, 1913) and Moon Pies (Chattanooga Bakery, Tennessee, 1917). No one knows who invented S'mores, the camping treat made by sandwiching a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers. The recipe for these gooey, delicious treats first appeared in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook as "Some Mores." Today, portable restaurant and home kits are bringing the fun of making and eating S'mores indoors.

Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford. A version of this post originally ran in 2008 as part of our Pic of the Month series. 

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