How TJ’s sweet tooth won $100K
Thomas Jefferson is lauded for founding the University of Virginia and writing the Declaration of Independence. Few, however, know that he was an ardent advocate for a liberty that modern day Americans feel particularly strong about: chocolate.
Just as he detailed his plans for the future of America in his correspondence with John Adams, Jefferson similarly related his innovative ideas about chocolate distribution in a 1785 letter to the Massachusetts-based patriot.
"By getting it good in quality, and cheap in price," Jefferson wrote, "the superiority of the article both for health and nourishment will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America."
In this letter, Jefferson also detailed how to harness the power of chocolate, which was at the time an under utilized commodity.
"The difficulties of getting it fresh have been so great in America that its use has spread but little. The way to increase its consumption would be to permit it to be brought to us immediately from the country of its growth."
The Mars candy company, which produces the "American Heritage" chocolate sticks sold by Monticello, wouldn't mind some historic chocolate discussion, as the company recently announced a $100,000 pledge to retire some of the debt Monticello used to purchase Montalto, aka Brown's Mountain.
In Jefferson's time, chocolate was often boiled and drunk as a liquid, according to Monticello spokesman Wayne Mogielnicki, who notes that Jefferson owned a silver chocolate pouring device, specially created by a silversmith in Philadelphia, called a "chocolate duck." It was a the exact copy of a similar device that was excavated at the Roman ruins in Nimes, France.
In 1826, this "chocolate duck" was among the prized possessions which Joseph Coolidge requested to buy from Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson's grandson.
In addition to his campaign for higher chocolate consumption, Jefferson seemed to put his money where his mouth was... or where he wanted it to be. A 1775 ledger records Jefferson buying three pounds of chocolate in July, only to buy 20 additional pounds that October.
Although Jefferson's chocolate fascination is finally unearthed, details of its uses in the 1700's are still largely a mystery. Although it is clear that Jefferson used a chocolate pouring device at Monticello, there are no records of which meal chocolate accompanied, or if it performed a similar function to coffee or tea.