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Boston’s first chocolate factory

Walter Baker and Co., Boston's first chocolate factory

Walter Baker & Co. postcard from 1870-1900

Who can take the sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in chocolate, and a miracle or two? The Candy Man can.

There’s another leading Wonka in town and we’re not talking about Timothée Chalamet, who is about to star as young Willy Wonka in the classic movie’s prelude “Wonka” that will be released on Thursday.

Today, we’re talking about Boston’s original chocolate maker from the US’s first chocolate factory — Bakers Chocolate Company.

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Hold your horses, we’re getting to the good stuff. | Gif via Giphy

Chocolate manufacturing in the US dates back to the colonial period when Dr. James Baker + Irish immigrant John Hannon opened New England’s first chocolate factory in 1765 at Dorchester’s water-powered mill.

The pair first met along the Neponset River, when John was about as broke as Charlie’s family, and Dr. Baker learned John was a skilled chocolatier. He learned the craft when chocolate making was a trade exclusive to England.

With the help of Dr. Baker, John was able to set up a business where he created “Hannon’s Best Chocolate" for approximately 15 years.

Much like the story of Willy Wonka, there was mystery when Hannon disappeared after a trip to the West Indies in 1779. The following year, his wife sold the company to Dr. Baker and the name was officially changed to Baker Chocolate Company.

The company was passed down through the generations of the Baker family. Years later, Colonel Walter Baker had studied law at Harvard and changed the name to add Walter + legally protected the family business.

The factory was America’s first chocolate producer and it sold hard baking chocolate we know today. The solid bars of chocolate were ground and mixed with boiling water to make hot chocolate.

Additionally, drinking chocolate was considered patriotic at the time and chocolate was also used as a ration for the revolutionary fighters. Here’s a sweet fact — chocolate is still provided to the armed forces directly from the government.

The logo of the chocolate company was adopted in 1883 and features a painting from the Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard. The logo was referred to as La Belle Chocolatière, which translates to “the chocolate girl.”

At the peak of the company’s production, it had over 800 employees. To our knowledge none of them were from Loompaland, and the factory produced chocolate for 250+ years.

Today, the Walter Baker Chocolate Company is owned by Kraft Heinz and still makes baking chocolate outside of Massachusetts.

Did you know that Bostonian’s can actually live in the old factory?

The Boston Chocolate Factory Apartments are located at 1220 Adams St. While it’s not edible, the apartment is pet-friendly and has offerings from a studio to two-bedrooms. View the amenities and floor plans here.

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