There's always something new at Manhattan's oldest house

A Taste for Chocolate

February 17 - May 29, 2017


The Morris-Jumel Mansion (MJM), Manhattan’s oldest house, will present a special exhibition exploring cacao and chocolate as a commodity and emerging breakfast tradition in colonial and post-colonial America. Stephen Jumel’s role as an importer and purveyor will be revealed in archival material from MJM’s collection. The exhibition focuses on how cocoa— typically sold in “cakes” and served as a hot drink flavored with vanilla, honey, and spices—became a popular beverage during Eliza Jumel’s lifetime (1775‒1865).


Known for its effect as a stimulant and easily transported, both British and American soldiers were supplied with cocoa cakes to mix with hot water for breakfast. Benjamin Franklin, who sold chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop, ensured that the Continental Army marching against General Braddock’s forces in 1755 were equipped with chocolate to boost their energy. In 1785, Thomas Jefferson predicted that cocoa would become American’s favorite after the Boston Tea Party and before coffee rose as the popular choice. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband about drinking breakfast chocolate during a trip to London, and Martha Washington made “cocoa tea.” George Washington and his officers used the Mansion as their headquarters in the fall of 1776. Despite its use in the military as a ration, when Stephen Jumel was importing cacao in the early nineteenth century (ca. 1820) it was enjoyed mostly by the upper and upper-middle classes. Eliza Jumel’s generation saw the democratization of chocolate as production techniques improved, the taste and texture became more palatable, and peoples’ taste for chocolate grew. A Taste for Chocolate will feature art objects from a private collection including rare books, antiquarian botanical prints, chocolate services and pots, and other decorative arts. Advertisements for Cadbury’s and Frye’s provide a window onto how cocoa was marketed in Europe and the U.S., and an original printed inventory from Stephen Jumel’s dry goods business lists a cacao shipment from the West Indies.

The opening night celebration for A Taste for Chocolate will be held at the Mansion on February 17, 2017, from 6‒8 pm. Admission is free of charge however guests must RSVP in advance. A host of public programs includes a tour of the exhibition on February 18, 2017, with MJM Director and exhibition curator Carol S. Ward. Following the tour, Ms. Ward will lead a tasting of different varieties of chocolate. Admission is $30 for adults, $25 for members/students. For more information and to make reservations, please contact

65 Jumel Terrace, New York, New York, 10032

(212) 923-8008

Morris-Jumel Mansion is a proud member of the Historic House Trust of New York City
and partner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.