National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Sidney Smith Lawrence III
Born Rapallo, Italy
Italian confectioner Domingo Ghirardelli established himself as a chocolate merchant in Lima, Peru, before immigrating to California in 1849, during the early days of the gold rush. He tried his hand at mining but quickly realized that selling provisions to those working the gold fields would be far more lucrative. The overwhelming success of his first general store in Stockton, California, prompted Ghirardelli to open a second location in San Francisco. Fires destroyed both establishments in 1851, but the resilient businessman quickly rebuilt. In 1852 he launched the manufacturing and retail enterprise that would become the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. One of only two chocolate manufacturers in the United States before the Civil War, Ghirardelli dominated the western market. In 1867 his company revolutionized the industry by introducing the world’s first nonperishable ground chocolate for beverages and baking. By 1885 Ghirardelli was importing more than 450,000 pounds of cocoa beans per year.