Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America's past. These stories are about Americans - people just like you - who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you. Kate Kelly
Chocolate Chip Cookie Inventor: Ruth Wakefield (1903-1977)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Inventor: Ruth Wakefield (1903-1977)

chocolate chip cookie

The chocolate chip cookie (toll house cookie) was first created by Ruth Wakefield (1903-1977). Ruth grew up in Massachusetts, and in 1924, she attended Framingham State Normal School of Household Arts and became a dietitian. She often gave lectures about food and proper eating.

Ruth married Kenneth Donald Wakefield (1897-1997).  In 1930, they bought a house in Whitman, Massachusetts. It was about midway between Boston and New Bedford. Built in the 1700s, the house was known to have been a stop for travelers. They  paid a toll for traveling on the road and could rest their horses. Many also enjoyed a home-cooked meal before venturing on. Some probably stayed the night.

The Toll House Inn

With this house history in mind, the couple named their inn, the Toll House Inn. Ruth took on the challenge of creating recipes for home-cooked meals. Many of them were based on colonial recipes to remain faithful to the heritage.

Ruth’s cooking, particularly her desserts, became known throughout the region. The invention of the Toll House cookie came about by accident. There are two variations of the story. Both stories report that she was attempting to make another type of cookie but she discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate.

In one version, she finds that she has a Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bar on hand. She cut the chocolate into small pieces and used the pieces as a substitute. When the cookies were baked, she discovered the chocolate had not melted or been absorbed. Diners loved them!  She named the cookies, Toll House Crunch Cookies.

She approached the Nestle company about featuring her recipe on packages of semi-sweet chocolate bits. In return, she would receive all the chocolate she needed. (I wondered if money later changed hands…anyone know?) Whichever story is true, it was a great match. Wakefield’s cookies became famous, and the Nestle company has certainly profited greatly from the popularity of the cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookie, Part 2

The original inn burned down in 1984.

In another version of the story, Andrew Nestle gave the Wakefields chocolate bars as a gift. That’s how she happened to have some on hand.

Whichever story is true, it was a great match. Wakefield’s cookies became famous, and the Nestle company has certainly profited greatly from the popularity of the cookie.

Click here for the original Toll House cookie recipe.

And to read about another woman who changed our cooking life, click here for the story of Fannie Farmer.




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