Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage

Our Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage book captures our eventful journey into chocolate’s rich past. It’s simply a must-read for anyone interested in the true history of mankind’s favourite delight.

Section Title

Author Information

Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro

Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro was appointed Director of External Research of Mars, Incorporated in 2005, and has served as its Director of Plant Science since 2000. Within Mars, Dr. Shapiro is responsible for plant genetics, integrated pest management/biological control of diseases, water conservation and the sustainability/production models for agroecology, agro-forestry and agro-economics of cacao. Additionally, he is the Director of the Multi-Disciplinary Research Unit, a collaboration between Mars, Incorporated, and the University of California, Davis. 

In 1991, Dr. Shapiro joined Seeds of Change business, a leading supplier of organic seeds, garden products, and specialty foods, as its Vice-President for Agriculture, and later served as its Vice-President of Research and Development/Agriculture before leading the company’s acquisition by Mars, Incorporated in 1997. Dr. Shapiro has twice been named a Fulbright Scholar, twice a Ford Foundation Fellow, and was winner of the National Endowment for the Humanities Award.

Dr.  Louis E. Grivetti

Dr. Grivetti’s research blends classical approaches of social and biological sciences with historical perspectives. The unifying theme of his research is how and under what conditions human diets change, the mechanisms of change, and the nutritional implications of human behavior.  Dr. Grivetti’s research has taken two sub-themes: 

1) History, origin, and maintenance of safe, nutritionally sound diets, including identification and nutrient analysis of edible wild plants in Greece and Swaziland, and species consumed during famine in the Sahel of Western Africa; religious determinants of human diet; food-use patterns during and after World War II evidenced by Eastern European, Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian societies; and food patterns and food safety in post-war Vietnam; and

2) Cultural-ethnic diet and nutritional status, including rural to urban migration in Greece; food patterns and access to health care by Native Americans; nutritional consequences associated with dietary changes associated with first-, second-, and third-generation immigrants to California, especially Asians, Hispanics, and Mediterraneans.  Dr. Grivetti is also the compiler of the University of California, Davis Olympic Centennial Athletic, Sport, Recreation Bibliography Project and the creator of American the Bountiful: Classic American Food from Antiquity to the Space Age, an exhibit of the history of American food, currently showing at the University of California, Davis Shields Library.

Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage



The Chocolate History, Culture and Heritage book is published and becomes the definitive reference for Canadian chocolate history.


Part One: Chapter 1-5 | Beginnings & Religion

Chapter 1 (Vail) considers chocolate use by Mayan cultures in the Pre-Hispanic Yucatan peninsula, as evidenced through cacao-and chocolate-associated texts and information from actual residues of chocolate beverages discovered in ceremonial pots excavated at archaeological sites. Her chapter traces the role of cacao in Mayan religion and explores its function both as food and as ceremonial items. 

Chapter 2 (Macri) examines theories on the origins of the word cacao (originally given as *kakaw) and traces the scholarly debates regarding the linguistic origins of cacao and how the word diffused throughout Mesoamerica. Her chapter also reviews the controversial suggestion that first use of the word chocola-tl in the Nahua/Aztec language appeared only after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 1520s. 

Chapter 3 (Grivetti and Cabezon) identifies the several Mayan, Mixeca/ Aztec, and contemporary Native American religious texts that report how the first cacao tree was given to humans by the gods. Their chapter considers how chocolate found a niche within Catholic ritual and social uses during religious holidays in New SpainlMexico. 

Chapter 4 (Cabezon and Grivetti) translate and comment upon a suite of extraordinary New World, Spanish texts written during that tragic period known as the Inquisition. The documents reveal how chocolate sometimes was associated with behaviors considered by the Church at this time to be heretical, among them blasphemy, extortion, seduction, and witchcraft, as well as accusations and denouncement for being observant Jews. Their chapter casts bright light on these dark actions practiced during this terrible period of Meso-American history. 

Chapter 5 (Shapiro) documents the intriguing and rich history of Jewish merchants influential in the 18th century cacao trade between the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curayao, New Amsterdam/New York, and elsewhere in New England. Her chapter reveals and describes for the first time the important role played by Jewish merchants who developed and expanded cacao trade in North America.

Part Two: Chapter 6-9 | Medicine & Recipes

Chapter 6 (Grivetti) explores the history and use of chocolate as medicine from early Pre-Columbian times Meso-America, through the early Spanish colonial period in Mexico, and ultimately into traditional medicine as practiced in Europe and North America during the 16th – 19th centuries. 

Chapter 7 (Grivetti) examines the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1764 and how fear gripped city elders and merchants, causing many to flee and locate to Boston suburbs with their chocolate inventory in attempts to avoid the pox. His chapter reveals how doctors and pharmacists of the era used chocolate during treatment of smallpox cases. 

Chapter 8 (Grivetti) identifies a suite of chocolate recipes that date from Pre-Columbian times through early 19th century European and North American culinary traditions. His chapter draws sharp distinctions between ingredients used to manufacture chocolate before and after 1492, to separate indigenous New World recipes from those developed during the colonial era and later. 

Chapter 9 (Pucciarelli) continues the theme of culinary chocolate and discusses chocolate recipes published in North American cookbooks during the 19th century. Her chapter documents for the first time the importance of these early cookbooks and how recipes and advice contained therein imparted dietary advice and moral values to women of the era.

Part Three: Chapter 10-15 | Serving & Advertising

Chapter 10 (Lange) presents an historical overview of chocolate preparation and serving equipment based upon analysis of silver, pewter, china, and porcelain chocolate pots and cups held in museum collections in the American northeast. 

Chapter 11 (Ward) builds upon this topic and provides a detailed exploration and description of silver chocolate pots and related items in Boston museum collections. 

Chapter 12 (Perkins) presents the history of French chocolate pots and reviews the confusion regarding their identification. 

Chapter 13 (Swisher) expands the study of historical, colonial era and foreign chocolate pots using representative images obtained from 21st century web-based search engines. 

Chapter 14 (Westbrook) examines the evolution of chocolate advertising through “Trade Cards” used by merchants in their shops to provide customers with information on a wide array of topics in order to attract customers. 

Chapter 15 (Swisher) considers the development and evolution of themes in chocolate advertising posters used by companies to attract customers. 

Chapter 16 (Westbrook) expands the theme of chocolate advertising and documents how different manufacturing companies advertised their products at the several World’s Fairs during the period 1851-1964.

Part Four: Chapter 17-21 | Economics, Education, & Crime

Chapter 17 (Richter and Ta) considers reports of cacao and chocolate in 18th and early 19th century Shipping News documents. Their analysis reveals how cacao and chocolate were transported from points of debarkation in South and Central America and the Caribbean to primary ports along the eastern seaboard of North America, especially Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. 

Chapter 18 (Richter and Ta) presents an economic analysis of 18th and early 19th century Price Current documents that established prices for cacao and chocolate in the major European and North American east coast cities. They report how the prices for these commodities fluctuated during periods of peace vs. hostilities and by transportation distance. 

Chapter 19 (Grivetti) summarizes information from 18th century almanacs, religious tracts, and primary school textbooks that included cacao-and chocolate-related homespun medical advice, recommendations for mental and personal improvement, morality tales, and spiritual instruction. 

Chapter 20 (Grivetti) analyzes a suite of English documents where defendants were tried for cacao-and chocolate-associated crimes that ranged from assault, to grand theft, to murder, and reviews the verdicts for relative fairness/consistency or lack thereof. 

Chapter 21 (Grivetti) continues the “dark side” theme of chocolate and presents selected criminal cases that involved cacao/chocolate-associated arson, blackmail, counterfeiting, murder, smuggling, and theft.

Part Five: Chapter 22-27 | Colonial & Federal Eras (Part 1)

Chapter 22 (Clark) considers the wide variety of beverages available in the American colonies during the 18th century, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, examines their comparative cost and economic importance, and how political change influenced popularity and consumer purchase decisions. 

Chapter 23 (Gay) challenges the commonly held assumption that North American chocolate preferences were dependent on European traditions. His chapter also describes American manufacturing methods and how producers maximized their competitive advantage using home made equipment, local labor, and innovative marketing methods. 

Chapter 24 (Macpherson) traces the introduction and spread of cacao and chocolate in Canada from the early 17th century into the 20th century and identifies relationships among chocolate and health, marketing, manufacture, cooking, importation and taxation, and popular customs. 

Chapter 25 (Jonah, Fougere, and Moses) examines the 18th century chocolate history of Fortress Louisbourg, capital of French colony of Ile Royale, Cape Breton, Canada. Using archaeological and curatorial collections, the authors illustrate the complex patterns of exchange during this historic period defined by military conflicts and changing political ideas. 

Chapter 26 (Blaschke) considers the development of the cocoa and chocolate industry in New England from the early 18th century through early 20th century, especially the growth of the chocolate industry as related to labor and gender issues, and use of chocolate and cocoa by Union forces during the American Civil War. 

Chapter 27 (Grivetti) considers production, sale, and social uses of chocolate in Boston during the 18th and early 19th centuries based upon Colonial and Federal Era newspaper articles and advertisements that described events occurring in this important New England port.

Part Six: Chapter 28-32 | Colonial & Federal Eras (Part 2)

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: Chapter 33-35 | Southeast/Southwest Borderlands & California

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.

Part Eight: Chapter 36-40 | Caribbean & S. America

Chapter 36 (Momsen and Richardson) offers a broad historical overview of the place of cocoa in the Caribbean, from the 16th century until shortly after World War 1. Their chapter focuses on the development of cocoa production especially in Jamaica, Trinidad and the Windward Islands, and describes 19th century cacao·farming and its impact on Caribbean society. 

Chapter 37 (Momsen and Richardson) reviews 17th and 18th century methods of chocolate preparation in the Caribbean, and the colonial trade patterns between Caribbean cocoa producers and consumers in Europe and North America. 

Chapter 38 (Noriega and Gonzalez) traces the history of cacao introduction to Cuba and explores the economic history of this important crop, using evidence based upon travel accounts and archive documents. 

Chapter 39 (Gonzalez and Noriega) presents a historical survey of cocoa and chocolate in Cuban literature and cultural life as evidenced in short story and novel genres, oral and folkloric traditions, musical texts, and traditional cook books that reflect the role of chocolate in Cuban cultural history. 

Chapter 40 (Walker) identifies the origins of commercial cacao production in the Portuguese Atlantic colonies, explores the connections between cocoa and forced labor, and how Brazil and West Africa evolved into the world’s leading cacao production zone during the 19th and subsequent 20th and 21st centuries.

Part Nine: Chapter 41-44 | Europe & Asia

Chapter 41 (Walker) considers cacao both as a medicine within the Portuguese colonial empire and also as a confection enjoyed by Portuguese elites at home or at court. His chapter explores uses of cacao and its by-products as a medical substance throughout the Portuguese empire from 1580-1830, and examines chocolate-associated themes in 18th-19th century Portuguese art. 

Chapter 42 (Gordon) traces the history and evolution of French chocolate from earliest knowledge of the beverage to the royal edict (1602) that offered protection to Jews – among them chocolate makers – who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. 

Chapter 43 (Gordon) reveals how the history of English chocolate was connected to 17th and 18th century popularization of hot beverages and the industrialization that followed. His chapter shows how the development of milk chocolate that followed Daniel Peters’ technical innovations in Switzerland in 1875, ushered in the modem chocolate era in England and elsewhere. 

Chapter 44 (Gordon) challenges the widely held view that chocolate was unknown until recently in China and presents a solid case for its introduction as early as the 17th century.

Part Ten: Chapter 45-50 | Production, Manufacturing, and Contemporary Activities

Chapter 45 (Cabezon) explores the content of selected Jesuit letters (1693-1751) written in New Spain. The four documents selected provide unusual insights regarding cacao production under Jesuit supervision during the 17th and early 18th century, and reveal how income provided from cacao was used to offset annual expenses/debts and to pay censos (annual alms) to the Catholic Church. 

Chapter 46 (Snyder, Olsen, Brindle) presents an overview of technological developments associated with chocolate manufacturing, from stone grinding stones to stainless-steel equipment developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They explore the evolution of cocoa processing that began using equipment commonly used to process other foods, to the development of specialized equipment, and how changes in production methods effected the flavor, texture, and form of finished chocolate. 

Chapter 47 (Brindle and Olsen) considers the long history of unscrupulous merchants who adulterated chocolate by mixing and blending unnatural ingredients with the intent of defrauding customers. This dark world of adulterated chocolate included additions of animal, vegetal, and mineral products, commonly used to add color or serve as extenders and replacements for fat. Their analysis reveals that while many adulterants were harmless, some were potentially toxic. 

Chapter 48 (Gay and Clark) describes the creation and development of the historic chocolate program implemented at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Their chapter identifies the stages taken in their efforts to produce authentic, historic chocolate and offers advice how other historical institutions and museums might establish their own chocolate programs.

Chapter 49 (Whitacre, Bellody, Snyder) relates how historical research and technical knowledge can be blended to produce a product that imitates the taste, texture, and quality of Colonial Era chocolate within reasonable parameters of historical accuracy. 

Chapter 50 (Pucciarelli and Barrett) relates that since earliest times chocolate has been viewed both as a food and as a medicine, and used to treat disease and promote health. The authors report data that measured attitudes, behavior, and knowledge of chocolate’s role as food and medicine among college student and members of the general population.

Part Eleven: Chapter 51-56 | Fieldwork, Methodology, & Interpretation

Chapter 51 (Cabezon and Grivetti) describes the techniques used by paleographers to identify documents by date and relates the skills used to read 16th-18th century hand-written Spanish documents. Their chapter, based upon a suite of l641-1642 St. Augustine chocolate-related documents, reveals the nuances and skills used when translating early Spanish manuscripts. 

Chapter 52 (Brindle and Olsen) review the types and kinds of cacao-and chocolate-associated resources available for inspection in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, with specific attention to port records, account ledgers, diaries, and local advertising.

Chapter 53 (Lange) identifies and describes the logical processes and decisions taken during the design, development, construction, and refinement of the Chocolate History Portal developed during the course of team activities (2004-2007). His chapter includes a basic overview of the Portal used by team researchers, its content, and navigation. 

Chapter 54 (Dunning and Fox) examines the structure, construction techniques, and forms of base-metal chocolate pots used in North America during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Chapter 55 (Grivetti) considers chocolate during the period of the American Civil War (1860-1865) as recorded through military records and diaries written by soldiers on both sides of the conflict, as well as diaries written by women during this terrible period of American history. 

Chapter 56 (Grivetti and Shapiro) identifies a broad sweep of chocolate-related historical themes and topics where further research would be rewarding and concludes the anthology with a short epilogue and identifies how scholars representing different fields might take part in future activities.