A Taste for Chocolate
The Morris-Jumel Mansion (MJM), Manhattan’s oldest house, presented a special exhibition exploring cacao and chocolate as a commodity and emerging breakfast tradition in colonial and post-colonial America. Stephen Jumel’s role as an importer and purveyor was revealed in archival material from MJM’s collection. The exhibition focuses on how cocoa-typically sold in “cakes” and served as a hot drink flavored with vanilla, honey, and spices-became a popular beverage during Eliza Jumel’s lifetime (1775-1865).
Known for its effect as a stimulant and easily transported, both British and American soldiers were supplied with cocoa cakes to mix with hot water for breakfast. Benjamin Franklin, who sold chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop, ensured that the Continental Army marching against General Braddock’s forces in 1755 were equipped with chocolate to boost their energy.
“A Taste for Chocolate” featured art objects from a private collection including rare books, antiquarian botanical prints, chocolate services and pots, and other decorative arts. Advertisements for Cadbury’s and Frye’s provide a window onto how cocoa was marketed in Europe and the U.S., and an original printed inventory from Stephen Jumel’s dry goods business lists a cacao shipment from the West Indies.