by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Monday was the birthday of one of America’s great inventors. Ruth Graves was born on June 17, 1903, and in 1938 she invented the chocolate chip cookie.
In 1930, [Graves] and her husband bought … the Toll House Inn … [l]ocated about halfway between Boston and New Bedford. … It is often incorrectly reported that the cookie was an accident, and that Wakefield expected the chocolate chunks to melt making chocolate cookies. In reality, Wakefield stated that she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with Toll House cookie.” …
As the popularity of the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie increased, the sales of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also spiked. Andrew Nestlé and Ruth Wakefield made a business arrangement: Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name for one dollar and a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. Nestlé began marketing chocolate chips to be used especially for cookies and printing the recipe for the Toll House Cookie on its package. …
Her invention … went on to be the most popular cookie of all time. Chocolate chip cookies are still consumed today and currently exist in a market space of over $18 billion here in the US.