On the Chocolate Trail

Women in the Colonial Chocolate Business

Due to labor shortages, women in pre-industrial America often worked, including in the chocolate business, sometimes alongside a husband or alone after having been widowed.1

[1731] Hannah Boydell, wife of Mr. John… [retailing] Sugar, Coffee, Chocolate… 2

[1731] This may serve to Inform Gentlemen in… Boston that Mrs. Read has opened a Chocolate House in King-Street… where they may Read the News and take Chocolate Coffee or Tea ready made any time of Day.3

[1732] At Mrs. Mary Sewall’s… is to be sold very good Chocolate per pound… ”4

[1751] Choice good CHOCOLATE made and Sold by Samuel Watts… N.B. Mary Watts in Middle Street sells the above said chocolate upon the same easy Terms, with sundry other Grocery Articles.”5

[1752] MARY LEECH is moved… where any person may be supply’d… and also with tea, chocolate, coffee, sugar… at reasonable rates… 6

[1760], chocolate “to be sold by ANNE GRANT in Hanover-Square”7

[1761] by “SARAH WHITE At Beekman’s Square,”8

[1762] by “Sarah M’Cullume” in New York,9

[1765] by “Bethiah Oliver, at her SHOP opposite the Rev. Dr. SEWALL’s Meeting-House, Boston.”10

[1766] “CORNELIA SMITH at her House in Market Street” sold chocolate by the box or dozen.11

[1775] by “REBECCA ROBINSON.”12

1 Many of them entered into an enterprise that had been run by a father or a husband. Women often farmed, especially if widowed or the husband was away. They practiced law and were the preferred practitioners of medicine and obstetrical medicine. A substantial number of printers and newspaper publishers of the Colonial period were women. Eliza Lucas Pinckney made a fortune producing the first crop of indigo in 1744 in South Carolina as she maintained her deceased husband’s seven plantations. While the income women derived equalled that of men, these women generally had no control over the use of that income. Linda Grant De Pauw and Conover Hunt, Remember the Ladies: Women in America (New York: Viking Press, 1975), 61–63.

2 New-England Weekly Journal (May 31, 1731): 2.

3 Boston Gazette (Monday September 6 –Monday September 13, 1731): 2.

4 New-England Weekly Journal (April 17, 1732): 2.

5 Boston Gazette (April 23, 1751): 2.

6 Pennsylvania Gazette (April 9, 1752): 3.

7 New-York Mercury (January 7, 1760): 4.

8 New-York Mercury (May 18, 1761): 3.

9 New-York Mercury (October 11, 1762): Supplement 2.

10 Boston Evening-Post (April 15, 1765): 4.

11 Pennsylvania Gazette (January 9, 1766): 3.

12 Pennsylvania Packet (October 16, 1775): 4.

On the Chocolate Trail

On the Chocolate Trail