The True History of the Chocolate Chip

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

So That’s Where Chocolate Chip Cookies Came From!

Chocolate chips are the primary ingredient in chocolate chip cookies, were accidently discovered when an inn keeper in Massachusetts substituted broken pieces of a Nestle dark chocolate bar into her favorite cookie recipe.  She hoped the broken bar would and the chocolate chip cookie melt and mix into her recipe like regular baker’s chocolate.  They did not and the chocolate chip cookie was the result.

Arguably the most popular cookie in America, it enjoys a rich history that dates back to 1937.  Here is the lowdown:

1937—Ruth Graves Wakefield

Ruth Graves Wakefield (1905-1977), of Whitman, Massachusetts, ran the Toll House Restaurant. The Toll House Restaurant site was built in 1709.  It served as a stop for stagecoach passengers to eat while horses were changed and a toll was taken for use of the highway between Boston and New Bedford.

One of Ruth’s favorite recipes was an old recipe for “Butter Drop Do” cookies that dated back to colonial times. The recipe called for the use of baker’s chocolate. One day Ruth found herself without a needed ingredient. Having a bar of semisweet chocolate on hand, she chopped it into pieces and stirred the chunks of chocolate into the cookie dough. She assumed that the chocolate would melt and spread throughout each cookie. Instead the chocolate bits held their shape and created a sensation. She called her new creation the Toll House Crunch Cookies. The Toll House Crunch Cookies 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. Word of the cookie spread and it became popular.

1939—Betty Crocker and the Nestle Company

Ruth’s cookie became known nationally when Betty Crocker (iconic homemaker created by Marjorie Child Husted), used it in her radio series.  Ruth approached the Nestle Company and together, they reached an agreement that allowed Nestle to print what would become the Toll House Cookie recipe on the wrapper of the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar. The company developed a scored semisweet chocolate bar with a small cutting implement so that making the chocolate chunks would be easier. According to the story, part of this agreement included supplying Ruth with all of the chocolate she could use to make her delicious cookies for the rest of her life.  Today, every bag of Nestle chocolate chips has Ruth’s original recipe of the back of the package.

1940s—Toll House Takes on the World

During WWII, GIs from Massachusetts who were stationed overseas shared the cookies they received in care packages from back home with soldiers from other parts of the U.S. Soon, hundreds of GIs were writing home asking their families to send them some Toll House Cookies, and Wakefield was soon inundated with letters from around the world asking for her recipe.

Present Day—Legal Free for All

Ruth sold all legal rights to the use of the Toll House trademark to Nestle. On August 25, 1983, the Nestle Company lost its exclusive right to the trademark in federal court. Toll house is now a descriptive term for a cookie.  Almost all baking-oriented cookbooks will contain at least one type of recipe.  To honor the cookie’s creation in the state, in July, 1997, Massachusetts designated the chocolate chip cookie as the Official State Cookie

Practically all commercial bakeries offer their own version of the cookie in packaged baked or ready-to-bake forms. There are at least three national (U.S./North America) chains that sell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in shopping malls and standalone retail locations.  Several businesses including Doubletree Hotels, Citibank, Aloha and Midwest Airlines offer freshly baked cookies to their customers to distinguish themselves from their competition.   There is an urban legend about Neiman Marcus’ chocolate chip cookie recipe that has gathered a great deal of popularity over the years.


photo courtesy of


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply