A truck careens through the rain-soaked streets of the West Village, emblazoned with the saintly image of the beverage created by… Don Bosco?
Years ago, I was driving through Ramsey, New Jersey, when I spied a grassy knoll with a stately building on top. The sign at the entrance of the property read, “Don Bosco Academy.” What? I thought. A think-tank endowed by the creators of a near-famous chocolate syrup? How absurd! Turn the page to find out the real story of Bosco.
Wrong Bosco! Don Bosco (1815-1888), also known as John Bosco, was a Catholic saint who was born in Castelnuovo, Piedmont, Italy. He founded the Silesian order of monks. The high school in New Jersey is presumably named after him, and run by the order that he founded.
There is a grain of truth as regards the chocolate syrup in the foregoing: Bosco was invented in Camden, New Jersey, in 1928 by a physician whose name has been lost to history, or at least to the Bosco company. He licensed the beverage’s manufacture to the William S. Scull Company, which had been founded in 1836 in Camden. Its most famous product throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was a blended coffee called–Boscul!
Bosco is an Italian word meaning “bosque,” which is a small wooded area.
The symbol of Bosco chocolate syrup is a bear wearing a baseball cap flying around in a tiny airplane holding what looks like an alcoholic beverage, maybe an old fashioned or a highball. He’s obviously not looking where he’s going.
In the 1950s, Bosco, bear and all, was sold to an outfit with the sinister name of Corn Products Company, and if you don’t think that name is sinister, you should read Omnivore’s Dilemma.
A jaunt through the interweb reveals almost no facts about where Bosco is actually made and what’s in it. I could find no bottles of it in my local supermarket. Wikipedia, however, reveals that Bosco was used by Alfred Hitchcock as the fake blood in Psycho.
One thing, at least, is certain: Don (or John) Bosco didn’t invent Bosco.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 7, 2009