Learn about Life in the 1920s

The Story of the Walter Baker Chocolate Girl

THE famous picture of "La Belle Chocolatiere," known all over the world as the trade-mark that distinguishes the Cocoa and Chocolate preparations made by Walter Baker & Co., Ltd., was the masterpiece of Jean-Etienne Liotard, a noted Swiss painter who was born in 1702 and died in 1790. It is one of the chief attractions in the Dresden Gallery, being better known and more sought after than any other work of art in that collection.


There is a romance connected with the charming Viennese girl who served as the model, which is well worth telling. One of the leading journals of Vienna has thrown some light on the Baltauf, or Baldauf, family to which the subject of Liotard's painting belonged. Anna, or Annerl, as she was called by friends and relatives, was the daughter of Melchior Baltauf, a knight, who was living in Vienna in 1760, when Liotard was in that city making portraits of some members of the Austrian Court. It is not clear whether Anna was earning her living as a chocolate bearer at that time or whether she posed as a society belle in that becoming costume; but, be that as it may, her beauty won the love of a prince of the Empire, whose name, Dietrichstein, is known now only because he married the charming girl who was immortalized by a great artist. The marriage caused a great deal of talk in Austrian society at the time, and many different stories have been told about it. The prejudices of caste have always been very strong in Vienna, and a daughter of a knight, even if well-to-do, was not considered a suitable match for a member of the court. It is said that on the wedding day Anna invited the chocolate bearers with whom she had worked or played, and in "sportive joy at her own elevation" offered her hand to them saying, "Behold! now that I am a princess you may kiss my hand." She was probably about twenty years of age when the portrait was painted in 1760, and she lived until 1825.

It is pleasant to think of the graceful figure of the Chocolate Girl as it appears upon Walter Baker & Co.'s packages becoming associated with cocoa and chocolate preparations, as a positive guarantee of purity and fine quality.

The term "Cocoa," a corruption of "Cacao," is almost universally used in English-speaking countries to designate the seeds of the small tropical tree known to botanists as THEOBROMA CACAO, from which a great variety of preparations under the name of cocoa and chocolate for eating and drinking are made. The name "Chocolate" is nearly the same in most European languages, and is taken from the Mexican name of the drink, "Chocolatl" or "Cacahuatl." The Spaniards found chocolate in common use among the Mexicans at the time of the invasion under Cortez, in 1519, and it was introduced into Spain immediately after. The Mexicans not only used chocolate as a staple article of food, but they used the seeds of the cacao tree as a medium of exchange.

No better evidence could be offered of the great advance which has been made in recent years in the knowledge of dietetics than the remarkable increase in the consumption of cocoa and chocolate in this country. The amount of crude cocoa retained for home consumption in 1860 was only 1,181,054 pounds—about 3-5 of an ounce for each inhabitant. The amount retained for home consumption for the year 1921 was approximately 275,000,000 pounds—about 41.6 ounces for each inhabitant.

Although there was a marked increase in the consumption of tea and coffee during the same period, the ratio of increase fell far below that of cocoa. It is evident that the coming American is going to be less of a tea and coffee drinker, and more of a cocoa and chocolate drinker. This is the natural result of a better knowledge of the laws of health, and of the food value of a beverage which nourishes the body while it also stimulates the brain.

Baron von Liebig, one of the best-known writers on dietetics, says:

"It is a perfect food, as wholesome as delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power; but its quality must be good and it must be carefully prepared. It is highly nourishing and easily digested, and is fitted to repair wasted strength, preserve health, and prolong life. It agrees with dry temperaments and convalescents; with mothers who nurse their children, with those whose occupations oblige them to undergo severe mental strains; with public speakers, and with all those who give to work a portion of the time needed for sleep. It soothes both stomach and brain, and for this reason, as well as for others, it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits."

The three associated beverages, cocoa, tea, and coffee, are known to the French as aromatic drinks. Each of these has its characteristic aroma. The fragrance and flavor are so marked that they cannot be imitated by any artificial product, although numerous attempts have been made in regard to all three. Hence the detection of adulteration is not a difficult matter. Designing persons, aware of the extreme difficulty of imitating these substances, have undertaken to employ lower grades, and, by manipulation, copy, as far as may be, the higher sorts. Everyone knows how readily tea, and coffee, for that matter, will take up odors and flavors from substances placed near them. This is abundantly exemplified in the country grocery or general store, where the teas and coffees share in the pervasive fragrance of the cheese and kerosene. But perhaps it is not so widely understood that some of these very teas and coffees had been artificially flavored or corrected before they reached their destination in this country.

Cocoa lends itself very readily to such preliminary treatment. In a first-class article, the beans should be of the highest excellence; they should be carefully grown on the plantation and there prepared with great skill, arriving in the factory in good condition. In the factory they should simply receive the mechanical treatment requisite to develop their high and attractive natural flavor and fragrance. They should be most carefully shelled after roasting and finely ground without concealed additions. This is the process in all honest manufactories of the cocoa products.

R. Whymper, in his recent work, "Cocoa and Chocolate, Their Chemistry and Manufacture," says: "It is our experience that the chocolate of finest flavor is prepared by using the best quality beans, properly roasted, without any further treatment."

Now, as a matter of fact, in the preparation of many of the cocoa products on the market, a wholly different course has been pursued. Beans of poor quality are used, because of their cheapness, and in some instances they are only imperfectly, if at all, shelled before grinding. Chemical treatment is relied on to correct in part the odor and taste of such inferior goods, and artificial flavors, other than the time-honored natural vanilla and the like, are added freely. The detection of such imposition is easy enough to the expert, but it is difficult to the novice; therefore the public is largely unable to discriminate between the good and the inferior, and it is perforce compelled to depend almost entirely on the character and reputation of the manufacturer.

A well-known medical expert has said: " The treatment of cocoa with potash is to be strongly condemned, as the slightly increased solubility obtained is more than counterbalanced by the injurious effects of the chemical upon the system, and those who value good health would ie well advised to leave such cocoas alone."

Baker's Breakfast Cocoa is absolutely pure, and, being ground to an extraordinary degree of fineness, is highly soluble. The analyst of the Massachusetts State Board of Health states in his valuable work on "Food Inspection and Analysis," that the treatment of cocoa with alkali for the purpose of producing a more perfect emulsion is objectionable, even if not considered as a form of adulteration. Cocoa thus treated is generally darker in color than the pure article. The legitimate means, he says, for making it as soluble as possible, is to pulverize it very fine, so that particles remain in even suspension and form a smooth paste.

That is the way the Baker Cocoa is treated. It has received the Grand Prize—the highest award ever given in this country, and altogether 57 highest awards in Europe and America.

Source: Choice Recipes - by the Walter Baker Company, 1922




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