The 1893 World’s Fair and the Chocolate Brownie


In 1893, Grover Cleveland began serving his second term as U.S. president, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder of her parents, and the World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago.

Several products and inventions made their debut at the Exposition. The first ferris wheel, Juicy Fruit gum, shredded wheat, and cream of wheat were on that list. But it was the introduction of the delectable brownie that stole the show.

It happened when Chicago socialite and philanthropist Bertha Palmer instructed the pastry chefs at her husband’s hotel, the Palmer House, to create a dessert that could fit inside the box lunches for ladies at the fair and that could be eaten without a mess. Thus the humble chocolate brownie was born.

Fondness for the dessert quickly spread. And in 1896, Fannie Farmer included the brownie recipe in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

I can’t think of any dessert that’s more versatile. It can be made plain or with icing, nuts, fruit bits, and any number of things, whatever strikes your fancy. The brownie became the trademark dessert of the Palmer House and is still served today.

Here is the original brownie recipe:

Chocolate Fudge Brownies from the Palmer House Hilton

3 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups chopped walnut pieces


1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoons apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 325F. Melt chocolate and butter in a glass bowl set over simmering water. Sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Stir chocolate mixture into flour mixture. Whisk in eggs. Pour into a 12 x 9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top, pressing slightly into batter. Bake 40 minutes, or until the edges become slightly crisp and the brownie has risen about ¼ inch. (Even when the brownie is properly baked, it will test gooey with a toothpick in the center.) Let cool 30 minutes. For glaze, combine water and preserves in a medium saucepan, whisking well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, pat glaze over brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. Remove and let stand 10 minutes and slice.

What kind of brownies are your favorite? Or maybe you have another favorite dessert. This year at the Texas State Fair in Dallas they’re gonna have Fried Girl Scout Samoa Cookies. Maybe your state fair can top that.


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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

16 thoughts on “The 1893 World’s Fair and the Chocolate Brownie”

  1. Hi Sherri………thanks for stopping by to comment. I hope you have a wonderful day. It’s so amazing to me how many delicious and wonderful things were introduced to us at fairs. I wonder what the future holds.

  2. Wow, gotta try the recipe, Linda. Even if I’ll probably end up eating the brownies myself. Thanks for an appetizing blog.
    When you mentioned the Chicago fair, I’ll confess the first thought to spriong to mind was the belly dancer, Little Egypt. Maybe I’ll save her for a future blog.
    Have a great day Filly Sister.

  3. Great post, Linda! Any talk of chocolate is a great discussion. But it was also interesting to learn of the other inventions, like cream of wheat, that were introduced there and we just take for granted now.

    My favorite brownies are the ones with caramel and chunks of chocolate swirled through. Good thing I don’t have the ingredients or I’d be too tempted to whip up a batch. :o)


  4. Those World Fairs sure brought some nice food innovations… the ice cream cone… now the brownie… A co-worker introduce me to the brownies that had chocolate chips added.. any boxed brownie becomes WONDERFUL with just that addition….

  5. Hi Elizabeth………I agree these brownies sure tempt me. I have such a horrible sweet tooth anyway. And when you mention chocolate I start to drool. I’m sure the apricot preserves would add a unique taste to them. Yeah, I’ll let you blog about Little Egypt. So for it, Filly sister!

  6. Hi Kirsten……..chocolate sure gets my taste buds fired up. I was so amazed that someone came up with them so far back. I assumed they came much later. I may have to put them in a book sometime. The only problem is that I’m sure they didn’t know anything about them on the frontier. But maybe a woman comes from the east and brings along the recipe. Aha! My mind is whirling. I’m so glad you paid us a visit today. I only wish you’d brought along those luscious caramel and chocolate chunk brownies!

  7. Hi Cate S……….thanks for stopping by. You’re right, anything added to the brownie box mix makes them out of this world. So quick and easy. But extra chocolate chips……mmmmmmm can’t go wrong there. Man, I’m getting hungry!

  8. Very intersting! I love a brownie my mother used to make called Texas brownies. Now my son used the recipe to perfection. Another favorite is one my aunt used to make that has marachino cherring in them. They are very moist and I often add the cherries to any box mix making them much better. Ok time to check the cupboard…..must be a brownie mix in there somewhere.

  9. Hi Connie……..It’s great seeing your name coming up in my comments. Always nice. I, too, love cherries in anything. Makes everything even better and like you said, so moist and yummy. If I keep talking about brownies I’m going to have to make some. They’re my grandson’s favorite dessert.

    Hope your day is full of fun and laughter.

  10. Yummy! I’m going to have to keep and make this recipe — brownies are my favorite — of course there are other things too that are my fav — but brownies… Yum!

  11. Awesome post, Linda. My mouth is absolutely watering. I love them crammed with chocolate chips. My sister in law covers the top of a just-out-of-the-oven pan of brownies with a whole bag of chocolate chips, which melt into the most amazing crust.

    My daughter does not like brownies with nuts in. She calls those boy brownies. She likes girl brownies LOL. She’s thirty now but that was her description way back when LOL.

  12. Love brownies in just about any form – peanut butter, chocolate chocolate, cherry, caramel (though I don’t care for nuts) but my favorites are the ones with cream cheese swirled through them!

  13. Thanks for another interesting post. Smart of her and the chef to come up with something that isn’t too difficult to make and travels well.

    I love brownies. Fudge brownies with walnuts is the favorite. I have a recipe somewhere for brownies that are so rich I don’t think I could eat them anymore. If I remember correctly it took 6 eggs and bakers unsweetened dark chocolate. You make them if you have lots of help to eat them or cut them into serving size and freeze in individual packets. That also removes the temptation to over-indulge.
    I think I have had brownies with cherries in them like Connie mentioned. I like maraschino cherries, so I’ll have to remember to add them next time.

    Looking at this brownie recipe, it almost sounds more like candy than brownie. I will be experimenting with it to see just what it is like. It is certainly rich.

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