Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Back in the early 1900s there was company in San Francisco called the Rathjens Sausage Company It was owned by two Rathjens brothers, who were German emigrants. The company was housed in a large brick building. When I was in college in San Francisco in 1964 the building with the sign painted on the side was still there. It was located down near Ghiradelli Square. The two German brothers also owned the Rancho El Primero in Laytonville. The company went bankrupt during the depression. The two German Brothers were my Grandfather, Bill Rathjen’s, uncles.

I have tried several times to find out more about the history of the sausage factory. But, as often happens with me, I get sidetracked with something else on my way to my goals. This time I got sidetracked with the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company. The history is much easier to research, and my wife loves chocolate. It seems to be the key to her heart. So this is going to be about chocolate, not sausage.

Just like all things in history, the further back that you go, the less that you can be sure of what really happened. Chocolate was originally from the Amazon or Orinoco basin of South America approximately 4,000 years ago. About 600 AD, the very advanced Maya Civilization either originated in Orinco, or they traveled to Orinco to bring the chocolate to the Yucatan Peninsula. They made plantations of cocoa and processed it. There is evidence that they knew about, and used cocoa long before they made the plantations.

As you have already guessed, cocoa became the local currency. By 1000 AD, cocoa was well established as the local means of trade. One Zontli equalled 400 cocoa beans, while 8000 beans equalled one Xiquipilli. On Mexican picture script, a basket full of cocoa beans was known to have 8,000 beans in it, so a basket full was equal to the number eight thousand. Maybe the Mayans were the original bean counters.

By 1200 AD the Aztecs had defeated the Chimimeken and the Mayas, They required tribute from the defeated tribes in the form of, you guessed again, Cocoa beans. They didn’t call it taxation back then, they called it “Tribute”. I wonder if the Aztecs had their own form of the IRS. If a poor Mayan tribe was late in paying their tribute, did they have to pay late fees in cocoa beans? I wonder what happened when they had a bad crop year?

In 1502 Christopher Columbus Discovered Cocoa beans.

In 1528, Hernando Cortez returns to Spain with cocoa beans, impressed by the fact that the Aztecs used them as currency. Hernando seeded plantations on Trinidad, Haiti, and the West African island of Bioko to grow "money" to trade with Aztecs for gold. Spain then had a virtual monopoly of the cocoa market for almost a century.

In the early 1700s Chocolate was used as a beverage, they had not yet started using it as a sweet confection. The chocolate houses became as popular as coffee houses in England.

In 1765, a Chocolate factory was established in Massachusettes Bay Colony. Back in the colonial days.

In 1852, in the heyday of the California Gold Rush, Domingo Ghirardelli establishes his first chocolate factory in San Francisco, CA. So chocolate has deep history in San Francisco.

In 1998, Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate of Switzerland acquires Ghirardelli Chocolate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of its holding company. Well… At least it didn’t move to China.

I'm not particularly fond of chocolate, but my wife and many other people would joyfully kill for it. It must be more addictive than cocaine, because I don't see my wife showing any inclination to give it up. Just like in Mexico, chocolate has become a form of currency in my house, and I am required to, on a regular basis, pay tribute to my wife.



suzy blah blah said...

Chocolate is God :)

charlie two crows said...

Chocolate covered bacon is spiritual.

Ernie......The Rathjens sausage co. Became the EverGood sausage co. The owners mother still lives on north state st in Ukiah. Are they related to you. The miller Bro.s invented the skinless frank at EverGood. One stayed the other bro. Moved to Lodi and started miller old fashion franks. I still have evergood franks shipped to me with dry ice. There's just something special about chocolate and pork!

Anonymous said...

Holy Hog, now this is interesting. Ernie will, one way or another get to the bottom of what he is looking for.
It is good to have such knowledgeable friends.
Now that is a big word:-)


Ekovox said...

Ernie, just know that like sushi, which we men may mistakenly identify as fishing bait, chicks dig chocolate. They could last for months alone on sushi and chocolate. I don't get it, never will. But, just try to take away my steak and beer!!!!

Robin Shelley said...

May I make a plug here? Recommending Papa Bear's Chocolate Haus in Mendocino (though I prefer the caramel there over the chocolate). Someday my granddaughter's grandchildren may be writing a blog about Papa Bear's much the same as Ernie is writing about Rathjen's Sausage Co. <3

olmanriver said...

Can you imagine how strong the ancients drinks must have been?
This pre-columbian chocolate history timeline may be of interest.

The Aztecs consumed chocolate in liquid form, as did the Mayans. It was served cold and frothy. The foam was believed to hold chocolate’s fundamental essence, and the ritual of creating the foam is seen in Aztec artwork. They’d pour the chocolate mixture vertically from one vessel to another, back and forth to make it froth. Today, many Mexican communities still value the foam so much they let their cacao beans calcify and turn white before grinding to ensure a heady mug of chocolate.

active wear said...

Haha. Your wife must be a real pain when it comes to getting taxes. But it's such a great and sweet gesture, eh. And like your wife and many people here on earth, I'm also a chocolate lover, though I love most the dark chocolate. This post just reminds me to buy a chocolate later, for I have an involuntary craving while looking unto the history of chocolate. Thanks for the post. :)

mary said...

I would like info on Charles E Morgan ( Johnny Morgan) and Arra V Morgan my grandparents my father is Charles E Morgan they live on Spyrock mountain and we still have the property there. My father and brother Bill sisters Ruby, Mary Ellen went to school by Marge's old property, we still have the little house by river about the tracts Spyrock is to the right of the house the Diana Simmerlys married Bill Morgan. Any info would be great.
Mary Morgan Childress

Ernie Branscomb said...

I will post your question and see what comes up.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Please Click on this link