The word chocolate comes from the two Mayan words meaning "sour
water." Aztecs also ground the beans to make a rich beverage. Historians
do not know how long the Aztecs and the Mayas have been harvesting cacao
beans, but they do know that they harvested them before Columbus arrived.
Botanists believe that chocolate, in the form of cocoa beans, originated
in the Amazon-Oronico river basin in South America. There, botanists and
geneticists are searching for original cacao trees that may have a resistance
to diseases that plague this tree in cultivation.
In 1528, Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, brought some cacao beans
back to Spain. Cacao beans were introduced to Italy in 1606. Shortly after,
people in France and Austria began to use the cacao beans. Eventually, this
popularity spread to England. By 1707 cocoa had become a fashionable beverage
in Europe. Today, chocolate is popular in most of the world. Large amounts
of chocolate are eaten in Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland,
and the U.S.A.
Early chocolate bars were made of bittersweet
chocolate. Milk chocolate was introduced in 1875, when Henry Nestle, a maker
of evaporated milk, and Daniel Peter got together to invent milk chocolate.
Today, 80% of the world's population prefers it.
At the 1893 Columbian Expo, a world's fair held in Chicago, chocolate-making
machinery was displayed. It caught Milton S. Hershey's eye. He had made
his fortune in caramels, but abandoned that and installed machinery in his
factory in Lancaster, PA. In 1894, he produced his first chocolate bar.
During World War I, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps was given 20 to
40 pounds of chocolate to be chopped up into smaller pieces and distributed
to the doughboys (American infantrymen). When the doughboys got home, they
wanted more chocolate.
As a result of the doughboys, from that time on and through the 20s, candy
bar manufacturers were established throughout the United States, and as
many as 40,000 different kinds of candy bars were produced. The 20s became
the decade that was the high point of candy bars.
The original candy bar industry was on the eastern seaboard in Boston, Philedelphia,
and New York. It spread to the Midwest because shipping and raw materials
were easily available there.