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Chocolate, Chocolate, and More Chocolate

Ahhh Chocolate!

February is when we consume even more than usual, often from heart-shaped boxes gifted by an admirer. And then chocolate arrives in Easter baskets to continue its place in our homes; most children are satisfied with one chocolate bunny. From Hersey kisses to Kit Kats, all the bite size candies are packaged in seasonal colors to catch our eyes. Cadbury has 21 different flavors of chocolate eggs.

My mother was a fan of a Whitman’s sampler, and she would hide it around the house. Maybe she needed to know there was some close by. I asked her one time which piece of candy in the box was her favorite. She quickly responded, “All of them, of course.”

Probably one of the most universally loved foods, the average American consumes roughly 11 pounds of the stuff a year!

It is hard to imagine a world without chocolate and this love of the heavenly substance stretches all the way back to our country’s colonial roots. Before the mid-1800s, if you had a craving for the world’s favorite sweet, you drank it!

The first printed evidence we have of Chocolate being used in London is in the notice in the Public Advertiser in 1657:

“In Bishopsgate St is an excellent West India drink called chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates.”

By the end of the Commonwealth in 1659, Thomas Rugge, a London diarist, was writing in his Journal about coffee, chocolate and tea as new drinks in London, and referring to chocolate as ‘a harty drink in every street’.

This is an 1800 chocolate cup crafted in England.

English worcester porcelain chocolate cup, 1800

Chocolate has its origins in South America where archaeological evidence indicates it was being cultivated and consumed over 3,000 years ago. The Spanish were the first Europeans to try the spicy chili and chocolate beverage of the Aztecs. They introduced it to Europe in the 1600s where, with the addition of sugar, it became the height of fashion.

In 1755, Benjamin Franklin bought chocolate to support the troops in the French and Indian War.

Drinking chocolate of the 18th century was different from our modern day cup of cocoa. It was made with either cacao nibs or blocks of compressed chocolate that were then grated or ground to a paste and dissolved in a warm liquid inside a dedicated chocolate pot.The chocolate was added to any combination of water, milk, cream, wine, or even brandy for an extra kick. This mixture was combined with sugar, though less than we use because it was an expensive import in colonial America. Other common ingredients included chili pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, or allspice. This resulted in a rich, sweet, spicy, and bitter drink that the colonists couldn’t get enough of.

The American Heritage Chocolate Block
Today we can buy chocolate blocks as American housewives did 200 years ago. Whether shaved, melted, or crushed, chocolate found its way into kitchens.

We know that many early Americans were fans of chocolate, but it wasn’t available to everyone. In the 1700s, chocolate was still a fairly expensive drink, similar to tea or coffee, making it a beverage of the upper and middle classes. It was seen as a nutritious and filling health food, commonly had with breakfast.

In1757 George Washington ordered 20 pounds of chocolate from British merchant Thomas Knox. While living at Kenmore Plantation, George’s sister Betty Washington Lewis ordered a gallon of chocolate.

It may seem strange to us that there were special cups just for drinking chocolate. However, since it was a luxury item enjoyed by the upper classes, it had a specific set of objects associated with its preparation and consumption. A teapot or teacup could have easily functioned for drinking chocolate, but the purpose of this specialized material culture was to show off wealth and sophistication.

For this reason, a well-to-do colonial household would have separate sets of vessels for the making and consumption of tea, coffee, and chocolate. Using the right one in the right way let your peers know you were a well-educated gentry woman or man.

Chocolate cups and pots were often made of fancy material like silver or porcelain to show off the wealth of the owner and reflect the nature of the luxury ingredient. Chocolate cups can be identified by their straight sides, unlike the gently sloping sides of a teacup. Similarly, 18th century chocolate pots generally are taller and have straighter sides compared to contemporary teapots. They also have a shorter spout with no strainer and often have a straight handle that juts out from the body.

The most recognizable feature of a chocolate pot however is a hole in the lid where the chocolate mill, or molinillo, would be inserted and rubbed between the hands to briskly stir the chocolate, creating a delicious froth on the top. Kind of makes you want to try eighteenth century chocolate drink, doesn’t it?

The next time you’re enjoying a bite of a Snickers (my dad’s favorite) or sipping your instant cocoa, think of the lofty origins of that treat and be grateful to the sweet-toothed colonials who so prized delicious chocolate!

As Charles M. Schulz quipped, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 

Wouldn’t You Love to Have a Cup of Tea With Her?

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I have always been excited to learn about women who were first at something, and Elizabeth Timothy wins in that category in South Carolina.

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When her publisher husband died in 1738, Elizabeth Timothy became the first female newspaper publisher and editor in America.
Elizabeth was born in Holland and immigrated to America in 1731 with her husband and four children. They sailed with other French Huguenots fleeing persecution.
Timothy met Benjamin Franklin, who hired him to be librarian of Franklin’s Philadelphia Library Company. Then Franklin trained him in the printing business at the Pennsylvania Gazette.

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Franklin had helped establish the “South Carolina Gazette” in Charlestown. When the publisher died, Timothy took his place in 1733. They signed a six year contract with Timothy’s son Peter as the next in line as publisher. “The Gazette” became the South Carolina’s first permanent newspaper under Timothy.

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The family joined St. Philip’s Anglican Church and became quite active. Timothy organized a subscription postal system that originated in his printing office. In 1736, he obtained 600 acres and a town lot.

Image result for photos of elizabeth timothyTimothy Print Shop
Lewis died in 1739, and Elizabeth took over. She was the mother of five children and momentarily expecting the sixth, but she took on another job. She ran the Gazette under the name of her 13-year-old son Peter. There was a year left on the contract, but not an issue was missed.

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Likeness of printing presses in the 18th century.
Elizabeth added a personal touch to the Gazette by adding woodcuts for illustration and advertisements. In the first issue after her husband’s death, she included a sentimental message asking for continued support from their customers.
Besides the Gazette, she printed books, pamphlets, tracts, and other publications. Franklin said that she was superior to her husband in her accounts; she “continu’d to account with the greatesr Regularity and Exactitude every Quarter afterwards; and manag’d the Business with such Success that she not only brought up reputably a Family of Children, but at the Expiration of the Term was able to purchase of me the Printing House and establish her Son in it.”
When her son Peter turned 21 in 1746, he assumed the operation of the Gazette from his mother. She turned right around and opened her own business, a book and stationery store next door to the printing office on King Street. Of course, she advertised in the Gazette. (I wonder if she had to pay?) In an ad in October, 1746, she announced that she had books available like pocket Bibles, spellers, primers, and books titled Reflections on Courtship and Marriage, Armstrong’s Poem on Health, The Westminister Confession of Faith, and Watt’s Psalms and Hymns. She also sold bills of lading mortgages, bills of sale, writs, ink powder, and quills for reasonable prices.
Elizabeth ran her business for about a year before she left Charlestown for a season. She was back by 1756. She died in 1757, and her estate included three houses, a tract of land, and eight slaves. She was a wealthy woman.
As the mother of six children and the wife of a wealthy and influential publisher, Elizabeth Timothy enjoyed a social position attained by only a few women printers of the colonial period. But her success of the newspaper and printing business after Lewis Timothy’s death can only be attributed to her own business acumen and management skills.
As the first woman in America to own and publish a newspaper, she played a vital role in the development of Charlestown and South Carolina. As official printer to the colony, she was closely associated with the South Carolina Assembly and colony’s government. And as the proprietor of a commercial printing business and bookstore, she printed, published, and offered for sale numerous books and pamphlets, and was at the center of the colony’s cultural and literary life.

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In 1973, Elizabeth Timothy was inducted into the South Carolina Press Association Hall of fame. She was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 2000.
Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Elizabeth Timothy was a South Carolina woman who didn’t need these encouraging words. In reading about her life, I believe she had some similar words as her motto.

Silkwood sampler created by Elizabeth Timothy in 1735. Image result for photos of elizabeth timothy