A snack I’d like to eat! Oldest box of commemorative chocolates found in Australia

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It was quite the surprise Jennifer Todd of the National Library of Australia had when she unexpectedly unwrapped a 120 year old box of commemorative chocolates. Todd, a conservator at the Library, found the sweet snack amongst the personal belongings of Australian poet, Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. 

The find came as a complete surprise to Todd and other members of staff at the Library, and is notable for the high quality it has retained. The chocolates, which date back to over a century ago, had been completely untouched and were still in their original and untampered packaging. 

The chocolates had been given out to British soldiers during the Boer War as a personal thanks from Queen Victoria at the time. Though never himself a soldier in the war, Banjo is thought to have bought the chocolates from a soldier during his time in South Africa as a war correspondent.  

The tins were a popular item even at the time of their commissioning, with some tins being sold for five to ten pounds on the frontlines of the war. Around 70,000 to 80,000 pound tins of cocoa were ordered to make the chocolates by Cadbury, the British confectionery company. A statement from the Cadbury brothers describes how the tins were specially designed for the occasion, as well as the recipe for the chocolates needing to withstand ‘the rough and ready conditions of camp life’.

Banjo became a national icon and is famous in Australia for his composure of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘The Man from Snowy River’. The chocolates will remain in the archives of Banjo’s personal belongings at the National Library of Australia as part of a wider collection. The National Library of Australia is the largest reference library in the country and situated in a central district of Canberra, Australia.