Inventor of the Week Archive
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Chocolate Chip Cookie
It may be hard to believe, but before the 1930s no one had ever had the pleasure
of biting into a chocolate chip cookie. Why? The sweet world-famous treat had
not been invented yet.
Ruth Graves Wakefield was the woman responsible for coming up with the concoction.
Ruth graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household
Arts in 1924. After graduation, she worked as a dietitian and food lecturer.
In 1930, Ruth and her husband Kenneth Wakefield purchased a Cape Cod-style toll
house located halfway between Boston and New Bedford, on the outskirts of Whitman,
Massachusetts. The house had originally been built in 1709, and at that time
it had served as a haven for road-weary travelers. There, passengers paid tolls,
changed horses and ate home-cooked meals.
More than 200 years later, the Wakefields decided to build on the house's
tradition, turning it into a lodge and calling it the Toll House Inn. Ruth cooked
home-made meals and baked for guests of the inn, and as she improved upon traditional
Colonial recipes, her incredible desserts began attracting people from all over
One of Ruth's favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Do cookies. As she prepared
the batter one day, she discovered she had run out of baker's chocolate. She
found a semi-sweet chocolate bar that had been given to her by Andrew Nestle,
and so she cut it into tiny bits and added them to the dough, expecting them
to melt as the cookies baked in the oven. However, the chocolate did not melt.
Instead, it held its shape and softened to a delicately creamy texture. Needless
to say, the cookies Ruth had created became very popular with guests at the
inn, and soon her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other
papers in the New England area.
Meanwhile, Nestle saw sales of its Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar jump dramatically,
and Ruth and Nestle came together to reach an agreement that would allow Nestle
to print the "Toll House Cookie" recipe on its packaging. Part of this agreement
included supplying Ruth with all of the chocolate she could use for the rest
of her life.
Nestle, meanwhile, began scoring the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar, and packaged
it with a special chopper for easily cutting it into small morsels. Then, in
1939, Nestle had a better idea, and began offering Nestlé Toll House
Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. The rest is "chocolate-chip" history. Ruth
continued to cook up a storm, producing a series of cookbooks including "Ruth
Wakefield's Recipes: Tried and True," which went through thirty-nine printings.
She and Kenneth sold the Toll House Inn in 1966 to a family that tried to turn
it into a nightclub. In 1970 it was bought by the Saccone family who turned
it back into its original form. The Toll House burned down, however, on New
Year's Eve in 1984.
Ruth Graves Wakefield passed away in 1977.