The Heritage Chocolate Society (formerly known as the Colonial Chocolate Society) celebrated its 20th anniversary at its annual meeting on February 7-8 in Richmond, Virginia.
Established in 2003 by American history advocate Forrest E. Mars, Jr., the Heritage Chocolate Society was created to further the study of chocolate’s diverse history and its impact on culture in the Americas, both past and present. For the past 20 years, the annual meeting has brought compelling, noteworthy, and best-in-class speakers to inspire, connect and equip attendees from America’s most iconic history and culture museums to make a lasting impact on their visitor experience.
Forrest E. Mars, Jr. was inspired to convene the first meeting of historians, scholars and foodways experts in 2003 after seeing a historical chocolate-making demonstration while visiting Colonial Williamsburg. With a mission to explore and share the rich history of chocolate, 15 attendees met in Elizabethtown, PA for the inaugural meeting of the then-named Colonial Chocolate Society with a theme focused on Cacao & Chocolate in Colonial America.
The Colonial Chocolate Society continued to meet every year at different historic sites in North America including Colonial Williamsburg, Fort Ticonderoga, Fortress Louisbourg and Mount Vernon. Hosted by Mars and AMERICAN HERITAGE® Chocolate, the meetings grew and brought innovative programming and speakers to its attendees. This year’s meeting, Back to the Future: A Look Back to Move Forward, focused on sparking dialogue and inclusive planning for the upcoming semiquincentennial of the United States of America.
- A keynote address by Futurist David Zach on finding clarity and cultivating curiosity in an “attitude” economy.
- Ted Widmer, Ph.D. from the New-York Historical Society on remembering the Bicentennial and looking for and protecting the untold stories of our shared history.
- Elon Cook Lee from the Center for Reconciliation on engaging black audiences at historic sites and the importance of accurate representation and interpretation.
- Shep Ogden, CEO & Co-Founder of Offbeat Media Group on using video and social media for telling authentic stories and engaging and building audiences.
- Alice Stevenson from the New-York Historical Society on thinking about history through the eyes of a child.
- A panel of historians from Westport Museum of History and Culture, The Carpenter’s Company, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation discussing strategies for engaging youth in their planned 250th Anniversary programs and exhibits.
- A workshop led by Sarah Pharaon of Dialogic Consulting on utilizing the Four Truths (forensic, personal, social and conciliatory) when engaging 250th Anniversary visitors as a structure for understanding the complex relationship that individuals have with history.
- Presentations from last year’s Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Chocolate History Grant winners including Stratford Hall, Senator John Heinz History Center, Historic Alexandria, Fortress of Louisbourg Association, Mount Vernon Ladies Association highlighting their grant funded programs and exhibits.
Over the last 20 years, several accomplishments have been directly attributed to the Heritage Chocolate Society gathering including:
- The creation and launch in 2006 of the first historically inspired chocolate brand, AMERICAN HERITAGE Chocolate, based on an 18th-century chocolate recipe.
- The publication of two highly acclaimed books on the history of chocolate: Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage (2009) and Great Moments in Chocolate History (2015)
- The publication of the National Geographic Educator’s Guide, Great Moments in World History: Global Stories Where Chocolate Sparked Discovery, Innovation and Imagination! in 2018.
- The historic recreation of two landmarks at Colonial Williamsburg: R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse in 2009 and the Market House in 2015. Both projects were funded by Forrest E. Mars, Jr.
- The launch of Made By Us in 2019, an unprecedented collaboration of cultural and historic institutions encouraging young people’s civic participation.
- The creation of the Forrest E.Mars, Jr. Chocolate History Grant in 2013, dedicated to funding research, programs, events and exhibits that preserve history and tell its story through the fascinating lens of chocolate.
“Since its inception in 2013, The Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Chocolate History Grant has awarded 56 grants totaling over $550,000,” said Kelly Lynch, Director: Brand & Experience, Mars Wrigley Premium Brands. “Grant funded programs and exhibits have been experienced by thousands of people across North America and we look forward to funding future projects that continue to push the boundaries of chocolate research and discovery.”
Mars and AMERICAN HERITAGE® Chocolate awarded grants to the following institutions:
- Montana State University (Bozeman, MT)
- Westport Museum for History and Culture (Westport, CT)
- Office of Historic Alexandria (Alexandria, VA)
- Lewes Historical Society (Lewes, DE)
- Tampa Bay Times Newspaper for Education (Tampa Bay, FL)
- French Colonial America (Ste. Genevieve, MO)
AMERICAN HERITAGE® Chocolate plans to continue to award grants on an annual basis and the submission period for the 2024 awards begins on August 30, 2023 at www.americanheritagechocolate.com/grants/.