Ruth Graves Wakefield (June 17, 1903 – January 10, 1977) was the inventor of the Toll House Cookie, the first chocolate chip cookie, which she created c. 1938. She was also a graduate and educator, a business owner, a chef, and an author.
Wakefield was educated at Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924. Then, she worked as a dietitian and lectured about foods. In 1928, she and her husband Kenneth Donald Wakefield (1897-1997) had a son, Kenneth Donald Wakefield Jr.
In 1930, she and her husband bought a tourist lodge (the Toll House Inn) in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts in Plymouth County. Located about halfway between Boston and New Bedford, it was a place where passengers had historically paid a toll, changed horses and ate home home-cooked meals.
When the Wakefields opened their business, they named the establishment the Toll House Inn. Ruth cooked and served all the food and soon gained local fame for her lobster dinners and desserts. The restaurant had many visitors, including Massachusetts’ Senator John F. Kennedy. Her chocolate chip cookies soon became very popular. She invented chocolate chip cookies around 1938.
It is often incorrectly reported that the cookie was an accident, and that Wakefield expected the chocolate chunks to melt making chocolate cookies. In reality, Wakefield stated that she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with Toll House cookie.”
Wakefield wrote a best selling cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, that went through 39 printings starting in 1930. The 1938 edition of the cookbook was the first to include the recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, the “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie”.
As the popularity of the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie increased, the sales of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also spiked. Andrew Nestlé and Ruth Wakefield made a business arrangement: Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name for one dollar and a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. Nestlé began marketing chocolate chips to be used especially for cookies and printing the recipe for the Toll House Cookie on its package.
Wakefield died following a long illness in Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, Massachusetts.