Before Hershey, before Cadbury, before Nestle and Mars, there was Baker. The Walter Baker & Company was established in 1780, making it the oldest chocolate producer in the United States. And this May 7th will be the 161st anniversary of the death of Walter Baker, grandson of founder Dr. James Baker, and the last family member to operate the firm.
This booklet is an advertising and promotional piece published in 1924. Inside the palm-sized book are over one hundred chocolate recipes, packed within its sixty-four pages. The title page announces that the included recipes are the works of “Miss Parloa and other celebrated cooks,” one of which is Miss Fannie Merritt Farmer of Fannie Farmer Candy fame (now called Fannie May Candies). Miss Parloa was given top billing for a reason. She is considered by many food historians as the first ‘celebrity chef’. During her lifetime (1843-1909) she wrote numerous cook books, established a number of cooking schools and was instrumental in instituting Home Economics as a science.
Poring over the amazing variety of recipes and ogling the twelve pages of luscious color images, is enough to make a chocolate lover quiver with excitement. Simple recipes for chocolate sauces, creams, frostings, cakes, and puddings, join the more exotic recipes for Turkish Paste with French Fruits, Ribbon Marshmallow Fudge and Chocolate Jelly Mold, all contributing to a carnival of cocoa goodness.
Intermixed among the delectable treats is the promise, “Our Chocolate and Cocoa are…free from coloring matter, chemical solvents or adulterants…” Chemical solvents and adulterants? This is referring to the unsavory practice that some less than reputable companies engaged in. By adding solvents to their mixtures, instead of using more expensive natural ingredients, these companies were able to improve the look and texture of their chocolate. Baker wanted to make sure consumers were aware of the purity of its cocoa and chocolate products.
Trying to get around this annoying bit of consumer awareness, some companies attempted to fool the public by designing their packaging to resemble Baker’s. Baker was forced into printing facsimiles of their authentic labels in this, and other, publications.
The one item that wasn’t tampered with was Baker’s trademark, ‘La Belle Chocolatiere’ (the beautiful chocolate girl). Anna, the model for this endearing servant girl, was the daughter of a Viennese knight. She posed for the painting in the 1740’s and it was adopted for use as Baker’s logo in the 1880’s. Her image became as recognizable as Betty Crocker’s or Aunt Jemima’s.
In 1927 Postum Cereal Company (later known as General Foods) bought W. Baker and Co. In 1979 the company was absorbed by Kraft Foods.