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"The little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped America"

Millions of Americans Are Grateful for Ruth's 'Butter Drop Do' Cookies

By Paul Niemann

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[December 06, 2007]  Ruth who?

Was it Ruth Handler, who created the Barbie doll and named it after her daughter?

No. How about Baby Ruth, the candy bar that was named after either President Grover Cleveland's daughter or Babe Ruth, depending on which version you believe?

Nope. Her name was Ruth Wakefield, and her story begins in 1930 in Whitman, Mass., where she and her husband Ken ran an inn. When it was built way back in 1709, their little inn was originally for travelers going from Boston to New Bedford. Travelers paid a toll each time they passed through with their horses.

Ruth worked as a dietitian and "food lecturer." Since neither you nor I are likely to know what a "food lecturer" is, we'll just leave it at that.

If I told you Ruth's last name, you still wouldn't know her. If I told you the name of her inn, you would know right away who she is. So I'll keep you in suspense for just a little while longer -- in the world of TV news, this is known as a "tease."

Ruth would often bake desserts for her guests, and one of her favorite items was her Butter Drop Do cookies. One day she ran out of chocolate while making a batch of these cookies, so she substituted some chunks of chocolate from a chocolate bar that her friend Andrew had recently given her.

Ruth expected the chocolate chunks to melt along with the cookie dough when she baked them, as she was trying to make her usual chocolate cookies. Instead, the chunks stayed hard. In the process, Ruth Wakefield made the first chocolate chip cookie in history!

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The fact that the chocolate chip cookie was created by accident means that it has something in common with Post-It notes, Silly Putty and Ivory soap.

What was the name of the inn that Ruth and her husband ran?

Here's a hint: Earlier in the story, I mentioned that travelers paid a toll each time they passed through. It was called the Toll House Inn. As in Nestle Toll House Cookies.

But there's more to this story.

Ruth and Andrew made a deal: His chocolate company would print her cookie recipe on its packaging in return for giving Ruth a lifetime supply of chocolate.

The full name of her friend Andrew was Andrew Nestle. As in Nestle Toll House Cookies!

Now it all makes sense, doesn't it?


Paul Niemann may be reached at

Copyright Paul Niemann 2007

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