Introduction The Chocolate The Village The People Resouces

 


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EDMUND BAKER (1804-1823)



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Ownership of Baker's Chocolate
Introduction
John Hannon
Edmund Baker

Sidney Williams

Henry Pierce
Corporate Owners
Writing of Edmund Baker, Account Book, 1792-1822
Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera

 

In 1791, at the age of twenty-one, Edmund Baker went into partnership with his father James. He quickly became an integral part of the family chocolate business by developing trade networks outside the Boston and New England area as early at 1795. That year the first recorded chocolate shipment was made to merchants Wales & Clopper in Baltimore, Maryland. This shipment was the first of a growing network of Baker’s chocolate sales to merchants in ports along the eastern seaboard. By 1809 the network included Philadelphia, Norfolk, Richmond, and New York.

James Baker took leave of the business in 1804, passing all operations to Edmund, and almost immediately Edmund implemented plans to increase production. In 1806, one year after he took full control of the company, he bought out Samuel Leeds’s grist mills and built the first Baker’s mill outfitted for chocolate, grist, and cloth production. This mill was operated by the first tub-wheels known to have been used in the region. Three years later Edmund bought Benjamin Pierce’s fulling mill in a nearby building.

In 1807, with tight trade embargoes and an impending war, Edmund faced the same economic problems his father did prior to the American Revolution. During this time smuggling cargo into American ports or through other routes was a way of life for many businessmen, and most likely Edmund was no exception. Edmund’s chocolate business had become quite prosperous, but the War of 1812 slowed production and business outside of New England dried up. Surprisingly, the war did not force Edmund to shut down chocolate production completely. He either rationed his cacao stock or received cacao from different ports through illegal means. Whatever his methods, Edmund managed to keep the chocolate business operating, although alternate sources of income became a necessity.

In 1813 Edmund razed the mill he built in 1806 as well as Pierce’s old fulling mill to make a larger, three-story granite-block mill that initially produced profitable woolens and satinet in addition to chocolate. After peace was declared in 1815, cloth production ceased in that part of the mill although later it housed an area for carding wool and spinning yarn. This additional manufacturing continued for a few more years until the family’s chocolate business regained strength and once again became a major source of income.

Edmund’s twenty-six year-old son, Walter Baker, joined the family company in 1818, initially manufacturing woolen broadcloth and satinets in the Baker mill. By 1820 Walter took on a more active roll and began recording accounts, pricing different chocolate products, keeping inventory, and tracking purchases. Then in 1823, at the age of fifty-three, Edmund Baker retired and handed over the business to Walter.