Lowney's Breakfast Cocoa Tin

Lowney's Breakfast Cocoa Tin

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This small, brown and rectangular container with multi-colored design was used to store and market Lowney's drinking cocoa. The front and back of the product show a woman in half length portrait drinking chocolate, while the lid is stamped "Lowney's Cocoa."
Walter M. Lowney learned the candy trade while working for the Philadelphia Candy Company, starting his own business in Boston in 1883. His business grew so quickly that by 1890, he was adding a third building to his plant. By 1900, he had opened another plant in Boston and one in Chicago. The same year he shipped 42,000lbs of chocolate to US troops in the Philippine American War. After Lowney passed away in 1921, his business passed on to his wife and children. By the 1930s, it was bank owned and sold to Rexall Drug Company.
Chocolate had been known and treasured by Native Americans in Central and South America for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the first Spanish explorers in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Cacao beans were so highly prized by Mayans and Aztecs that they were used as currency in many areas of the Americas. When first taken back to Europe by the Spanish, the chocolate drink continued to be produced exclusively for the enjoyment of royalty or the extremely wealthy. As the cacao bean gradually made its presence known throughout Europe, it still remained trapped in this exclusive section of society well into the 19th century.
The chocolate trade to North America began more than 300 years ago, primarily centered in or near major port cities of the time, such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Newport, RI. Due to lower transportation costs, chocolate was often less expensive in the Americas than in Europe and therefore had a broader consumer base. The Industrial Revolution radically changed chocolate production and helped propel it into the hearts and stomachs of the working class. Instead of being a labor intensive product, it became entirely machine made reducing costs even further in the late 19th and early 20th century. During this time, chocolate went from being something a person drank to being something to eat, finally becoming a treat for the masses.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Container, food
Can, Tobacco
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
tin (overall material)
overall: 4.1 cm x 2.3 cm x 3.4 cm; 1 5/8 in x 7/8 in x 1 5/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Can Manufacturers Institute
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object