Ruth was born in East Walpole, Massachusetts to Fred Luther Graves (1875 – 1942) and Helen Vest Jones Graves (1880 – ?). ”Ruth Graves was born on June 17, 1903, in East Walpole, Mass., the daughter of Fred Graves and the former Helen Vest Jones.” — Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New York Times. 21 March 2018. Accessed July 2021 at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/obituaries/overlooked-ruth-wakefield.html In August 1915, when Ruth was 12, her father remarried to Harriette Ruggles Graves.
In 1924, she graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts (now Framingham State University) in Framingham, Massachusetts, and worked from that autumn in 1924 until 1926 as a home economics teacher at Brockton High School, Brockton, MA.
Between 1926 and 1930, Ruth worked as a hospital dietitian, and as a home service director for a gas and electric company. ”She was raised in Easton., Mass., and attended the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts (now Framingham State University). After graduating in 1924, she taught home economics at Brockton High School, lectured on food and worked as a hospital dietitian and a customer service director for a utility company.” — Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
On 26 June 1926, she married Kenneth Donald Wakefield (1897 – 1997) in North Easton, Bristol, Massachusetts. Kenneth worked in management at a meat packing company. Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie.
The couple had at least two children: a son Kenneth Donald Wakefield, Jr. (1928 – 1993) and a daughter, Mary Jane.
Founding the Toll House Inn
In 1930, Ruth and Ken took what was their life savings to date, and purchased a Cape Cod-style toll house just outside of Whitman, Plymouth County, Massachusetts on the road from New Bedford to Boston.
Ruth and Ken made it an inn, calling it the Toll House Inn, telling customers that it had been built in 1709 and had functioned as a Toll House. She also perpetuated the myth in the prologue to her cookbook:
“In August of 1930, Mr. Wakefield and I bought a lovely, old Cape Cod house, built in 1709 on the outskirts of Whitman, Mass. At one time it was used as a tollhouse, where passengers ate, changed horses and paid toll. It was here that we started our inn, calling it the Toll House.” “Ruth Wakefield Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” (M. Barrows & Co. Inc., 1940).
This was marketing fiction, according to Massachusetts historian John Galluzzo:
“[Ruth] and her husband Kenneth purchased the old Smith house on Bedford Street, partially constructed by Jacob Bates in 1816 and 1817, and finished later that year by Lebbeus Smith and his new wife, Jacob’s sister, Polly… [they gave] it the fictitious date of 1709 and equally fictitious moniker as a “toll house”… Nobody ever really worried about the imaginative date and name for this restaurant. Everybody knew that it was just good promotional technique.” Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators. Hyannis, MA: South Shore Living Magazine. November 2011. Accessed June 2021 at
They decorated the interior in traditional colonial styles. The restaurant was relatively small at first , with only seven tables, able to seat 30 to 35 people. Later, they would expand that to 61 tables. One room of the Inn, the Garden Room, was built around an elm tree growing in the centre of the room.
“It encompassed the well-known circular ‘garden room,’ built around a great tree trunk. The garden room windows looked out on the well-groomed real garden, which was a perfection at every season.” Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.
Ruth did the cooking for guests; she became well-known for her lobster dinners, as well as colonial-era inspired New England meals and desserts. Very early on, in 1930, she published “Ruth Wakefield’s Recipes Tried and True” [Ed: in Brockton, Massachusetts. The first issue, actually undated, was possibly self-published.] The book would slowly pick up in popularity over the years (the library in Joplin, Missouri, announced it had it as a “new book” in 1937), be picked up by Little Brown and other publishers, and have over 30 revisions and reprints.
The Toll House Inn became a destination place in the area for big events, and would appear frequently in the type of social columns that reported who celebrated what, where.
“The service was elegant, the appointments superb, with real linen and silver, and handsome place plates echoing the table decorations. A large hook was provided under each table corner for hanging milady’s purse out of the way. Keeping the place looking that way was a chore, said the former waitress. Every napkin had to be folded perfectly. The entire wait staff had to work without paper, committing orders to memory.” Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.
The great and the good frequented it, and in 1932 it hosted a private conference to promote Franklin D. Roosevelt as U.S. president:
“Several Democratic Mayors of Massachusetts held a conference with James Roosevelt, son of Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, yesterday afternoon at the Toll House, an inn on Bedford St, Whitman.” — Roosevelt’s Son Talks with Mayors. Boston, Massachusetts: The Boston Globe. Monday, 25 January 1932. Page 1, col. 4.
On 2 September 1935, Ruth and Ken were robbed in a live hold-up. Four gunman took $200 in cash from the safe, and $4,000 in jewelry from the house, including the rings off of Ruth’s hands.
“Four gunmen, who robbed the proprietors of the Toll House, widely known tea room, of $4000 in jewelry and $200 in cash, were hunted today along the back roads of Cape Bod and the Massachusetts south shore. They rolled the Toll house and the proprietors home, nearby, at approximately the same time, late last night. One of the robbers, posing as a patron of the establishment, awakened Kenneth Wakefield, who, with his wife, owns the tearoom, several hours after the Toll house had closed for the day. The robber said he had lost some tickets while having dinner earlier and asked Wakefield to open up the dining room for him so that he could search for them. Wakefield and the robber went to the establishment, where the owner was forced to open the safe and hand over $200 in cash. The owner had taken the precaution, however, to secret a large part of the holiday week-end receipts. Two other holdup men, members of the same party, went to the Wakefield residence, meanwhile, stripping Mrs Wakefield of her rings and searched for other jewelry in bureaus and a desk. The fourth gunman waited in a car nearby. The couple did not resist the gunmen and no shots were fired. The robbers forced Wakefield to accompany them when they left and put him out of their machine several miles down a back road, unharmed. He walked to a nearby farmhouse and notified police.” — Four Gunmen Make Getaway. Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell Sun. 3 September 1935. Page 1
Ruth Wakefield became a minor celebrity in the New England area. At least one food company engaged her for product promotion.
In 1955, the Wakefields posted a notice in the Boston Globe announcing the 25th anniversary of the Toll House Inn.
The Toll House Cook Book
In 1931, Ruth Wakefield self-published a red hardcover cook book called ‘Tried and True Recipes’ (printed by Nichols & Eldridge in Brockton, Massachusetts, 1931, 207 pages.) Accessed June 2021 at https://biblio.co.uk/book/wakefield-ruth-gravesruth-wakefields-tried-true/d/706461545
By 1937, she had acquired an actual publisher for the book, which was by then in its 5th reprint. ”A smaller, red backed book, now in its fifth printing, has come recently to my desk and is worthy of recommendation. It is Ruth Wakefield’s ‘Tried and True Recipes’, published by M. Barrows and Co., New York. There are 200 pages of distinctive recipes which are favorites in a Massachusetts inn called Toll House, operated by the author, who is a dietician and lecturer. This is not a general cookbook, but the recipes are good, and they’re reliable, what’s more.” — Meade, Mary. Several Good Cook Books on Market Now. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Tribune. Saturday, 14 August 1937. Page 9, col. 2.
In 1940, Wakefield’s cookbook was still receiving good press:
“One of my wife’s favorite cook books of modern days is Ruth Wakefield’s “Toll House Tried and True Recipes.” This is done by a lady who knows what she is talking about, because she has fed a good part of the world at her Toll House, at Whitman, Mass.” — Driscoll, Charles B. New York Day by Day column. Joplin, Missouri: Joplin Globe. 21 November 1940. Page 4.
In a 1940 review of her cookbook, Wakefield was quoted saying that she and her husband were extensive travellers:
“The romance of good cookery is unfolded in the pages of a new edition of “Toll House Recipes” which was received by the food page editor of The Sheboygan Press recently. The new volume celebrates the 10th anniversary of the opening of the inn in Whitman, Mass which serves thousands. The book by Ruth Wakefield is beautifully illustrated in color and contains hundreds of recipes which have given Toll House its fame. Quoting Mrs Wakefield, who with her husband invested their life savings in an old Cape Cod house and began feeding the hungry traveling public: “There is a story behind every recipe in the book. Some were given to me by friends and pupils. Some I have created and developed to meet the needs of our hungry and ever increasing clientele. Several of the dishes included have been handed down to me by my family. Then Mr Wakefield and I have traveled in search of new foods. We used to go to Europe each year. We’ve been to Africa, South America, Central America, New Zealand, Australia and the South Sea Isles and Hawaii.”
Besides preparing adequately for her career, Mrs. Wakefield taught in the household arts department of a high school and was a hospital dietitian and a home service director for a gas and electric company before she and her husband bought the house built in 1709 which had been used as a toll house [Ed: note this is factually incorrect] where stage coaches rested and changed horses. The young couple painted and papered the old inn, paid for all furniture and supplies and their venture was begun on the residue of their savings — $50. Today their staff of more than 100 men and women serves between one and two thousand persons daily.” — Romance Of Good Cookery Told In “Toll House” Book. Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The Sheboygan Press. 18 July 1940. Page 18.
In 1953, her cook book entered its 28th edition, with 888 recipes. The name at some point evolved, dropping the “Tried and True” part:
“Revised, expanded and in a new format, the 28th edition of Ruth Wakefield’s famous TOLL HOUSE COOK BOOK will be published on Nov. 2 by Little, Brown. This printing adds many new recipes and menus to the old favorites.” — Two Different Views. Charlotte, North Carolina: The Charlotte News. Saturday, 31 October 1953. Page 9A, col. 2.
All accounts give the invention as an “accident”, but it’s just as likely that Ruth, a trained Home Economist, knew exactly what she was doing.
Seeds of the “accident myths” started appearing as early as 1955. A food writer named Dorothy Crandall for the Boston Globe wrote that “By chance, one day when making her favorite cookies, she added a cut up semi-sweet chocolate bar.” Crandall, Dorothy. Toll House Cookie Mix Now Needs Only Water. Boston, Massachusetts: The Boston Globe. 20 October 1955. Page 30, col. 2.
The “accident versions” grew as subsequent versions elaborated on the tales. One of the accident versions states that Ruth was making trying to make her recipe for chocolate-flavoured Butter Drop Dough cookies, a drop cookie with nuts in it. The recipe called for you to melt squares of baking chocolate, and stir that melted chocolate into the batter, to colour and flavour the batter completely with chocolate. Ruth was in a hurry / out of baking chocolate (as the accounts go), and so instead simply cut up pieces of Nestlé’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and stirred the small pieces in whole, expecting them (reputedly) to melt right into the dough and colour it just as melted chocolate in the batter would have done. [Ed: that is the hard part to believe about a person with Ruth’s food science training and background as a cookbook author.]
“In her recently published ‘Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book,’ the food writer Carolyn Wyman offers a more believable, if somewhat less enchanted, telling. Wyman argues, persuasively, that Wakefield, who had a degree in household arts and a reputation for perfectionism, would not have allowed her restaurant, which was famed for its desserts, to run out of such essential ingredients as bakers’ chocolate or nuts. Rather, the more plausible explanation is that Wakefield developed the chocolate-chip cookie “by dint of training, talent, [and] hard work.” Michaud, Jon. Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New Yorker. 19 December 2013. Accessed June 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie
According to the food writer June Greene Cameron in Pittsburgh, Ruth Wakefield told her that not only was the creation of the chocolate chip cookies deliberate, but it was even planned, and something that Wakefield had been mulling over in advance in her head while on vacation:
Ruth Wakefield of Famed Toll House Stresses Challenge of ‘Something Different’.
To some people cooking is a routine chore; for others it’s a bore. But to a chosen few, cooking — creating complicated dishes and fixing food in new ways — is a constant challenge. For these special persons, cooking is their life’s work. June Greene Cameron visited and talked with a number of these dedicated cooks during a recent trip to Boston. This is the first of a series of five articles telling of her findings.
When cooking — dare to be different — that’s the advice of Ruth Graves Wakefield who, with her husband Kenneth, owns and manages the world famous inn, The Toll House, 20 miles south of Boston.
“Start with the freshest eggs, the sweetest butter, the richest cream, garden fresh vegetables and the best grade meats. Lean on a dependable recipe but make the final product yours,” she said.
How? According to this famous cook and originator of distinctive dishes it’s easy.
“Flavour your cooking with ingenuity,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to add a pinch of this or a dab of that. Taste as you create. Add nuts where they’re not expected — vegetables, for instance. Add herbs to meats, spices to cakes.”
On one return trip from Europe she was mulling over some cookie recipes (she readily admits such musings are frequent pasttimes). Feeling that her standard butter cookie recipe needed some pepping up she thought of adding chocolate bits.
The first day back home found her in the Toll House kitchen hacking baking chocolate into pieces for cookies. The rest is history.
She delights in telling how some sharp eyed executive of the Nestle chocolate company noted sales of chocolate bits around Whitman, Mass. — home of the Toll House — completely outbalanced sales throughout the United States.
Investigation proved Ruth Wakefield’s recipe, distributed throughout the vicinity, responsible for the demand. If the cookies were so popular in that limited district why not throughout the country? With her permission the Toll House cookie recipe and a sketch of the Toll House is on a package of Nestle chocolate bits.
Today the cookies, baked daily at the Toll House, are packaged and sold by the hundreds of dozens to all parts of the United States. — Cameron, June Greene. Food Very Fancy In Staid Boston. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh Press. Monday, 17 June 1957. Page 12, col. 1.
Part of the inspiration, Wakefield later recounted, actually came from some experiments with chocolate that she had done in a food chemistry class. And far from the cookie being a one-time accident that just happened, she said developing the recipe took her several tries and revisions, with help from an assistant, to arrive at a cookie that satisfied her:
“It started almost 40 years ago when Ruth Wakefield smashed up a Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar to add to some brown-sugar cookie dough at her Toll House Restaurant. She had been looking for an alternative to the crisp pecan icebox cookie she usually served with ice cream…..
Mrs. Wakefield, a home economist and expert, inventive chef, created several recipes which were, and still are, specialties of the house. It was one year, after a trip to Europe, that she remembered some chocolate experiments she had made in a college food chemistry class.
She ordered some chocolate bars from the grocery, received Nestlé semi-sweet bars, and broke them into bits with an ice pick. After testing and experimenting, she and her pastry cook, Sue Brides, came up with a new cookie.
It was so popular everyone wanted the recipe, and, unlike many chefs and successful restaurant owners, Mrs. Wakefield and her husband Kenneth, who ran the restaurant with her, generously gave out 100 or more copies of the recipe a day.
Finally, the new edition of her Toll House Cookbook included it. But, at that time, the cookie had a different name.
“I never called my cookie a chocolate chip cookie, since there were no such things as chocolate chips when I created the recipe”, Ruth Wakefield told me. It is called Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies in her cookbook, which, after 39 editions published by Little Brown company, is now out of print.
As people began to use the Toll House recipe to bake the cookies at home, Nestlé felt the demand for semi-sweet chocolate bars. Previously a slow seller, sales increased 500 per cent in one year. The company contacted the Wakefields, who were happy to give them the recipe and it was printed on the candy wrapper.” — Hanes, Phyllis (Christian Science Monitor). Toll house craze began here. Lowell, Massachusetts: The Lowell Sun. Wednesday, 26 January 1977. Page 27, col. 5.
The cookies were made with a blonde dough, nut pieces and small chunks of melted chocolate in them, and were popular. She decided at the time to call them “Toll House Crunch Cookies”, with the “Crunch” presumably reflecting the nuts in them.
In November 1938, Betty Crocker featured the recipe in a column calling them “Chocolate Crunch Cookies”, but without mentioning the connection between the cookies and Ruth Wakefield. Crocker, Betty. Stagestruck Cooky. Minneapolis, Minnesota: The Minneapolis Star. Saturday, 26 November 1938. Section 2, page 4, col. 2.
The earliest print mention that CooksInfo is aware of for the cookies under the name of “Toll House” in newspaper archives (as of 2021) dates from 21 April 1939 in Poughkeepsie, New York (Poughkeepsie Evening News, page 10, Bull Markets Grocery Ad).
Note that earliest names for the cookies included the world “crunch”, because the cookies were originally intended to always have nuts in them.
The staff at the inn, though, were not allowed any of the cookies:
“At the end of each night, Ruth would bag up the extra cookies and order them thrown out. The wait staff was not allowed to snack on them, whatsoever. One night, though, they took their chance, and ended up paying their price. “We knew that Ruth wouldn’t be there, so we all put in our order at the end of the evening,” she said. “We wanted a private place in which to eat them after the restaurant closed, and since Ruth wasn’t there, we used her office. Well, guess who walked in. She never said a word. She just looked at what each of us was eating, made eye contact with each of us individually, and walked out. The next week, the exact cost of our desserts was taken out of our paychecks.”” Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.
Dealings with Nestlé
She seems to have shared her recipe freely, because other people started making the cookie, causing sales of the Nestle bar to ratchet up in the area. Nestlé’s sales people investigated, and discovered that her recipe was the cause. They negotiated a licence to use and promote her recipe, by reprinting it on some of their packaged chocolate products, through advertising, etc. One of the things that Ruth got in return was a lifetime supply of semi-sweet chocolate — though there was a monetary arrangement, too.
“In a bargain that rivals Peter Minuit’s purchase of Manhattan, the price was a dollar—a dollar that Wakefield later said she never received (though she was reportedly given free chocolate for life and was also paid by Nestlé for work as a consultant).” Michaud, Jon. Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New Yorker. 19 December 2013. Accessed June 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie
At first, Nestlé started selling the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar that Ruth’s recipe called for pre-scored for easy chopping, then they introduced Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (aka chocolate chips.) And, they set about promoting the recipe. In 1939, Betty Crocker featured the recipe on the radio program “Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places.” In the spring of 1940, Nestle began to pay to run the recipe as advertorial in newspapers.
By 1941, an advertisement in which she endorses a cocoa product shows that her claim to fame was now also attached to her cookie recipe:
Still, in the decades that followed that, Ruth’s name was just as likely to be mentioned in connection with her recipes for lobster, Sailboat Lemon Meringue Pie, or Sea-Foam Salad Ring.
But now, decades later, her association with any cookbook, or famous inn, is completely forgotten. It is the cookie association that remains, though the standard for chocolate chip cookie recipes has switched to being without nuts.
The Wakefields sold the Inn in 1966 and retired to Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Ruth died in the Jordan Hospital, Plymouth, Massachusetts on 10 January 1977. She was buried in Mayflower Cemetery in Duxbury. She left her collection of cookbooks to Framingham State College.
The new owners of the Inn tried to make it into a night club, but it was not a success. After four years, they sold it in 1970 to a family named Saccone, who turned it back into an inn under the same name — Toll House Inn. The building was completely destroyed in a fire on New Year’s Eve 1984 when a fire in an oven spread up the chimney stack and onto the roof. It was not rebuilt.
Ruth Wakefields Toll House Cookie Recipe
Nestlé ran chocolate chip advertorials with the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies right in the advertisement:
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar [Ed: packed]
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten, whole
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
2 Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Economy Bars (7 oz ea)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Important: Cut the Nestle’s Semi-Sweet in pieces the size of a pea. Cream butter and add sugars and beaten egg. Dissolve soda in the hot water and mix alternately with the flour sifted with the salt. Lastly add the chopped nuts and the pieces of semi-sweet chocolate. Flavor with the vanilla and drop half teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a 375° F. oven. Makes 100 [Ed: sic] cookies. Every one will be surprised and delighted to find that the chocolate does not melt. Insist on Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate in the Yellow Wrap, there is no substitute. This unusual recipe and many others can be found in Mrs. Ruth Wakefield’s CookBook “Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” on sale at all book stores.—Adv.” — In: Syracuse Herald-Journal. Syracuse, New York. 10 April 1940. Page 24.
Ruth added the recipe to her cookbook in a later revision, with this note:
“At Toll House we chill this dough overnight. When ready for baking, we roll a teaspoon of dough between palms of hands and place balls two inches apart on greased baking sheet. Then we press balls with finger tips to form flat rounds. This way cookies do not spread as much in the baking and they keep uniformly round. They should be brown through, and crispy, not white and hard as I have sometimes seen them.”
Ruth Wakefield’s other recipes
Restaurant reviewer and food critic Duncan Hines was a fan of Wakefield. In 1953, he reviewed the restaurant and focussed on her prowess with lobster, rather than cookies:
“Ruth Wakefield, a superlative cook and hostess, is the proprietress of The Toll House at Whitman, Mass. This lovely old Cape Cod house was built in 1709 as a Toll House [Ed: note this is factually incorrect] where passengers ate and changed horses. Her success is attributed to the fact she has the ability to adapt recipes from all over the world to suit average tastes. In three years’ time her dining room grew from seven tables, to 61 tables, with a constant waiting line. When I visit the Toll House, I order their Broiled Live Lobster. This is the way they prepare it:
Place lobster on its back. Hold large claws firmly. With sharp knife begin at mouth and make incision, then split shell the entire length of body and tail. Remove stomach and intestinal canal, and a small sack back of head. Crack large claws and lay lobster open as flatly as possible. Brush meat with melted butter. Season with salt and pepper.
For each lobster crumble soda crackers enough to fill body cavity, probably 5 or 6. Blend lobster tomalley and juice of 1/4 lemon. Add melted butter enough to moisten well and put into lobster body cavity. Cover body stuffing with an inverted pan while lobster is broiling. Remove cover when lobster meat shrinks from shell and allow crumbs to brown well. Twenty to 25 minutes is usually long enough but depends upon size of lobster. Serve hot with melted butter and wedge of lemon.” — Hines, Duncan. Lobster is Super. San Antonio, Texas: San Antonio Express. 26 July 1954. Page 1B.
Wakefield’s gelatin and seafood salad recipe also received good press:
“Sea-Foam Salad Ring: To 1 pkg. lime gelatin, add 1 1/2 c. boiling water. Chill, and when gelatin is syrupy, blend in 2 c. (1 Ib) cottage cheese, 1/4 c. chopped green pepper, 1 tbsp. vinegar, 1 tbsp. grated onion, 1 1/2 tsp horseradish, 1/2 tsp. salt. Pour into big ring mold or 8 small ones and chill until firm. To serve, turn out on serving plate and fill center with fresh shrimp, crab meat, lobster or other salad. Serves 8.” — Sullivan, Joan. A good cook shares her secrets. Logansport, Indiana: Logansport Press. 16 February 1954. Page 6.
In this 1953 column, Duncan Hines covered her Hawaiian Chicken, baked in a coconut shell:
One of the desserts she was famous for was her “Mary Jane Gingerbread”, which was popular with the Kennedy family:
“During the time before the cookie recipe became famous, (Mrs. Wakefield’s) hot milk cake and Mary Jane Gingerbread were the stars of the restaurant. The Mary Jane Gingerbread was the favorite of President John Kennedy. During World War II, Rose Kennedy, his mother, left orders for the gingerbread to be shipped weekly to John Kennedy when he was an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in the South Pacific. The recipe is delicious. You will notice, however, that it does not contain ginger.” Dosti, Rose. Cookbook With Recipes From Toll House Inn Proves to Be a Real Treat. Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles Times. 8 April 1990. Accessed June 2021 athttps://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-08-fo-1761-story.html
At Eastertime, she was famous for serving her Daffodil Cake.
If you were to have your Easter dinner at the Toll House Inn at Whitman, Mass., you would remember forever their special Daffodil Easter cake — light and airy as an angel food cake. Ruth Wakefield, owner and operator of this famous and popular eating house, has created this Toll House tradition for Easter menus. This is her formula.
Beat one cup of egg whites until foamy. Add one-half teaspoon salt, one teaspoon cream of tartar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold in carefully one cup and two tablespoons of sugar. Divide the mixture. Fold into one part: one-half cup flour, sifted five times, and one-half teaspoon vanilla. Fold into the other part: six egg yolks, beaten, two-third cups flour, sifted five times, and one-half teaspoon orange extract. Place by spoonfuls into ungreased nine-inch tube cake pan, alternating yellow and white batters as in marble cake. Bake in slow own, 325 degrees F, for 60 minutes. Invert pan over milk bottle by putting the hold of the pan around the neck of the bottle. Let stand until cool.” — Hines, Duncan. Yellow Easter Cake Is Light As Angel Food. Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Daily News. Friday, 3 April 1953. Page 30, col. 1.
Profile by Ernest Taylor Pyle
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ernest Taylor Pyle profiled the Wakefields in 1938:
“We sat at breakfast with Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield in their phenomenal Toll House Inn.
Everything was very quiet, for the Toll House does not open till noon, and our breakfast was a private one. Only a couple of gardeners on the back terrace, and a somber window-washer, were stirring.
All around us was the fabulous establishment that the Wakefields in eight depression years have run from nothing into one of America’s finest eating places (even Duncan Hines, the transcontinental eater, says so.) The place rambles and stretches until it resembles the estate of a new England millionaire. Year-by-year new rooms have gone on — sunrooms, garden rooms, private rooms, outdoor decks, lawns, gardens, parking places. Today there is room for 350 guests at one sitting. But the place has never lost the personality of a house: it has never taken on a commercial look.
Back behind the tall house is the Wakefield’s own home. It sits among trees, in a grassy little estate of 9 acres. It is the sort of white, cozy, New Englandish place you see in the magazines. It makes you mad to go into it, everything is so nearly the way you’d like to do it yourself.
We sat there in their home and chatted till nearly 1 o’clock. It was a Thursday, and when we left the Toll House it didn’t seem possible that anybody would ever show up for lunch. Maybe a few, I thought to myself, but I’ll bet they don’t have any crowd to show us today. We went back in through the kitchen, and then out through the doors the waitresses use. And there in front of us was the entire place packed with lunch eaters. Every room, every table was filled. At least 50 people were waiting in the lounge. I couldn’t believe it was really true.
Where do they all come from? How do that many people find a place? The answer is that most of them are regular customers. Some 40% come from around Providence, Rhode Island, about 40 miles south west. Another 40% come from the Boston area, 25 miles north. The rest are largely from right around here, with a smattering of travellers who have heard of the place.
More than 1000 people a day. And the cheapest meal they can get (even lunch) is $1.00. From there up to $2.50. And they come in droves. It’s colossal!
For 10 months of the year the Wakefield’s whole lives are in their work. They are on the job by 10 in the morning, and they stay on the job till 11 or so at night. Their social life is practically nil. They feel they deserve the grand winter vacations.
They usually leave right after New Year’s. They’ve been all over Europe, and northern Africa, and the Near East. They have put in at two dozen Central American ports. They prefer to travel on freighters. Last winter they returned from Europe on the Queen Mary and were disgusted.
They have been to Hawaii three times, and onto the South Seas and Australia. They are toying with the idea of flying around South America this winter.
They come back from their trips looking like Santa Claus. They bring each one of the 97 employees a present. They bring back sets of precious China picked up here and there. They bring back foreign linens, and various native ashtrays and doodads for Toll House and their own home. And of course they bring back dozens of ideas.
Ruth Wakefield can cook by ear. Or by taste, I suppose you’d call it. She can eat a strange dish, and come home and re-create it with every ingredient in proportion. One winter in a Paris basement they picked up an onion soup they liked. That onion soup alone made them enough money to pay for the next winter’s trip to Europe.
The Wakefields consider magazines their greatest extravagance. They subscribe to 25. But I would call their dog the big extravagance. It is a wirehair named Sally and she has almost eaten the house down. She has eaten all the knobs off the cabinet drawers, eaten hunks out of all the doors, eaten completely through the arms of the sunporch furniture, eaten the shingles off the side of the house. She ate a $45 hunk out of their best oriental rug. But they love her.
The Wakefield’s have had one experience that they’ll never forget. They were held up around 11 o’clock one night, in their own home, by four thugs with guns. They got $300 and all of Ruth’s jewelry.
The Wakefield’s live well but not extravagantly. They have two cars – a Packard sedan and an Oldsmobile coupe, both convertibles. The greater part of their profits goes back into Toll House. They figure Toll House is their bank, and their career. They feel if they invest their money in it continuously, it will go on blessing them with manna until they are 55. Then their annuities (where they now put their spare money) will start working, and they will live happily ever afterward. Tomorrow – conclusion.” — Pyle, Ernie. Pyle, Ernie. Roving Reporter. Knoxville, Tennessee: The Knoxville News-Sentinel. Monday, 19 September 1938. Page 13, col. 3.
and the follow-up column, part two:
“Of the dozens of little miracles that have built the eating place in Whitman known as the Toll House, the most miraculous seems to me that the builders – Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield – apparently have never made a mistake. They have in reality, I suppose, made many. But the mistakes certainly don’t show. In finance, public psychology, or good taste they seem to have had an uncanny facility for doing the right thing.
At the start, they decided to open every Monday morning with every bill paid. They are still doing that. They do have an auditor now — but once a week Kenneth Wakefield sits down and personally writes out checks for an hour. At times they have had to borrow from banks. They hated it, for that meant that somebody else had a right to tell them how to run their business.
Over his desk Kenneth Wakefield has pinned two cancelled notes for $5000 each. They symbolize the Wakefield’s deliverance from obligation. They don’t owe a cent to anybody, and they say they never will again.
But all that does not explain the outlandish success of their eating house. A thousand little points make up the explanation, but the biggest one is the fact that the Wakefields decided to run the ideal eating place – never to cheat nor to chisel. To run it from the diner’s standpoint instead of the proprietor’s. Here’s what I mean:
When they started their original buying eight years ago, the wholesalers said to buy cheap, hard chairs, so that people wouldn’t sit so long. The Wakefields bought easy chairs. The wholesalers said to buy large soup plates — get the people filled up on soup, because soup is least expensive and dessert is most expensive. The Wakefields bought small soup plates, and concentrated on elaborate desserts (such as pie with meringue 3 inches deep.)
At the Toll House you’re welcome to a second helping of anything. Just the other day a man ate clear through 2 full-course dinners (2 14-ounce steaks) for the price of one. Of course they lost money on him. But they figure the bragging he’ll do about how much he ate will bring them profits.
The Wakefields throw away hundreds of dollars worth of slightly soiled menus yearly. They never cross out any item with pencil. There is no mussiness in their dining rooms. The Wakefield waitresses are instructed to talk with the guests (if the guests want to talk). There are eight hostesses, with three always at the door, so that newcomers won’t have that “lost” feeling. Each waitress has only two tables to wait on, so there is no neglect. The steaks are about 3 inches thick. Corn is boiled in milk. Every table at Toll House is set differently – silver and china and cloths of different designs brought back by the Wakefields from their travels. They spend $300 a month on fresh flowers for the tables.
Duncan Hines, the travelling gourmet whom I wrote about not long ago, said the average life of a good restaurant was three years, because as soon as success came greedy owners started cutting down on quality and thereby killed the goose. Bankers and other advisers tried to get the Wakefields to do that. But instead, they kept on spending. They enlarged and modernized the kitchen, bought more and more tasteful furnishings, thought up new and fancy foods. They tried no tricks, no “short cuts”. They went ahead paying twice as much for eggs and vegetables as the ordinary restaurant. They had set their meal prices high enough in the first place so that they never were tempted to cut the corners.
This summer they bought a new machine for washing and polishing silverware. It cost $700. You can go back and see it work if you want to. Guests are invited to step into the Toll House kitchen. Alf Landon has been in the kitchen. And Jimmy Roosevelt. Jimmy spent a good deal of time chatting with the workers. Not just “how do you do”, but leaning up against a table and really having long conversations. Everybody in the Toll House kitchen is sure he will be President someday. As for me I’d rather be the Wakefields than be President.” — Pyle, Ernie. Roving Reporter. Knoxville, Tennessee: The Knoxville News-Sentinel. Tuesday, 20 September 1938. Page 23, col. 3.
Benson, Kit and Morgan. Ruth Graves Wakefield. Find A Grave Memorial# 3065. Posted 13 June 1998. Retrieved August 2010 from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3065
Ruth Wakefield: Chocolate Chip Cookie. Invention Dimension. Lemelson-MIT Program. Retrieved August 2010 from http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/wakefield.html
|↑1||”Ruth Graves was born on June 17, 1903, in East Walpole, Mass., the daughter of Fred Graves and the former Helen Vest Jones.” — Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New York Times. 21 March 2018. Accessed July 2021 at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/obituaries/overlooked-ruth-wakefield.html|
|↑2||”She was raised in Easton., Mass., and attended the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts (now Framingham State University). After graduating in 1924, she taught home economics at Brockton High School, lectured on food and worked as a hospital dietitian and a customer service director for a utility company.” — Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie.|
|↑3||Roberts, Sam. Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie.|
|↑4||“Ruth Wakefield Toll House Tried and True Recipes,” (M. Barrows & Co. Inc., 1940).|
|↑5||Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators. Hyannis, MA: South Shore Living Magazine. November 2011. Accessed June 2021 at|
|↑6||Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.|
|↑7||Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.|
|↑8||Accessed June 2021 at https://biblio.co.uk/book/wakefield-ruth-gravesruth-wakefields-tried-true/d/706461545|
|↑9||”A smaller, red backed book, now in its fifth printing, has come recently to my desk and is worthy of recommendation. It is Ruth Wakefield’s ‘Tried and True Recipes’, published by M. Barrows and Co., New York. There are 200 pages of distinctive recipes which are favorites in a Massachusetts inn called Toll House, operated by the author, who is a dietician and lecturer. This is not a general cookbook, but the recipes are good, and they’re reliable, what’s more.” — Meade, Mary. Several Good Cook Books on Market Now. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Tribune. Saturday, 14 August 1937. Page 9, col. 2.|
|↑10||Crandall, Dorothy. Toll House Cookie Mix Now Needs Only Water. Boston, Massachusetts: The Boston Globe. 20 October 1955. Page 30, col. 2.|
|↑11||Michaud, Jon. Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New Yorker. 19 December 2013. Accessed June 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie|
|↑12||Crocker, Betty. Stagestruck Cooky. Minneapolis, Minnesota: The Minneapolis Star. Saturday, 26 November 1938. Section 2, page 4, col. 2.|
|↑13||Galluzzo, John. Classic Cookie Creators.|
|↑14||Michaud, Jon. Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie. New York, New York: The New Yorker. 19 December 2013. Accessed June 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie|
|↑15||Dosti, Rose. Cookbook With Recipes From Toll House Inn Proves to Be a Real Treat. Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles Times. 8 April 1990. Accessed June 2021 athttps://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-08-fo-1761-story.html|