February 6, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
James Baker

It is known that the Aztec Indians of Central America used chocolate as many as 3,000 years ago, mixing cultivated cacao beans into a frothy drink. Columbus was served the drink on a voyage in 1502 and other explorers started trading in the exotic flavor, which rapidly gained popularity in fashionable European chocolate houses.

The American chocolate business did not begin, however, until 1755 when Massachusetts sea captains sailed to the West Indies to trade cargoes of fish for the precious cocoa beans. The beans were sold to apothecaries who would grind the beans into a medicine. This is how James Baker, a Dorchester, Massachusetts physician came to know chocolate.

In 1764 Baker provided the capital for John Hannon, an Irish immigrant, to mill the first chocolate in North America. The water-powered mill opened on the banks of the Neponset River in the center of Dorchester. It sold ground chocolate and also milled beans brought in by others. By the time of the American Revolution Hannon’s chocolate business was flourishing.

Meanwhile Baker was experimenting with other recipes for chocolate. He leased space in a local paper mill and in 1772 sold his first chocolate. In 1779 Hannon sailed for the West Indies in search of greater supplies of cocoa beans. His fate is uncertain but he was never heard from again. The original mill came under Baker’s full control and in 1780 he began producing the first chocolate under the brand name Baker’s.

James Baker retired in 1804 and the chocolate business remained in family hands for nearly another 100 years. Other chocolate factories ground beans throughout the United States but none seemed as efficient as the Baker mills. And today, over 200 years later, the Baker name remains synonymous with unsweetened and semi-sweet baking chocolate in America. It is the oldest American concern manufacturing the same product in the same location.

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