For a century, Girl Scout troops all over the country have been selling boxes of delicious cookies for their annual iconic sale. But how did it all begin? Now that Girl Scout Cookie season is upon us (our freezers are begging to be restocked with Thin Mints!), here’s a look back at its sweet origins.
The first cookie sale dates back to 1917 (five years after the Girl Scouts was founded), when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in a local high school cafeteria as part of a service project.
“These girls took the lead and kicked off what would eventually evolve into Girl Scout Cookies as we know them today, which have helped tens of millions of Girl Scouts make their dreams a reality,” Stewart Goodbody, Senior Director of Communications and External Affairs at Girl Scouts of the USA, tells PEOPLE.
“Selling Girl Scout Cookies is a girl’s first enterprise, and through the program they learn skills such as goal-setting, business ethics and financial literacy,” she adds. “Many women who sold Girl Scout Cookies recognize the experience as their ‘first career move,’ as they learned valuable skills they still use today.”
In July 1922, The American Girl magazine, which was published by Girl Scouts of the USA, featured a cookie recipe from Florence E. Neil, a local director in Chicago. The sugar cookie recipe (get it here!) was given to the organization’s then 2,000 Scouts. The cookies, Neil suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen.
Over the next several years, Girl Scouts across the country baked their own cookies following the recipe, packaged them in wax paper bags and sold them door to door.
“When you buy cookies from a Girl Scout, you are investing in a girl’s future, and the future leadership of our country,” Goodbody says. “Girls aren’t just selling cookies — they’re learning how to manage money, set goals, make decisions and communicate with adults — things that aren’t necessarily taught in school, but are invaluable to their future and the future of the global economy.”
The cookie sale reached new heights in 1933 when Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia became the first council to sell commercially baked cookies. A box of 44 cookies sold for just 23 cents.
The Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York followed suit in 1935 with the sale of their own commercially baked cookies, which were in the shape of a trefoil. Then in 1936, the national Girl Scout organization licensed the first commercial bakers to produce cookies that would be sold nationwide by the troops. Just one year later, more than 125 Girl Scout councils held cookie sales.
The variety of cookie flavors has also evolved over the years. In 1951, there were three kinds: Sandwich, Shortbread and Chocolate Mints (now famously known as Thin Mints).
By 1966, the best sellers were Thin Mints, Shortbread and Peanut Butter Sandwich. During the 1970s, Girl Scouts offered Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos® and Shortbread/Trefoils® cookies. The three standard flavors continued to sell throughout the ‘80s (among other new flavors). By the late ‘90s, low-fat and sugar-free options were added to the selection.
In the 2000s, new cookie box designs were introduced that captured the spirit of Girl Scouting. In recent years, the first gluten-free cookie was introduced and the Scouts also launched the Digital Cookie platform, a safe and interactive space for girls to sell cookies. “One hundred percent of cookie earnings stay with the local council and troops — powering amazing experiences for the girls, as well as funding projects that benefit local communities,” Goodbody says.
And in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first cookie sale, a new flavor was introduced: S’mores!
“Girl Scouts popularized s’mores in the 1920s, and creating s’mores-inspired cookies also speaks to our legacy of promoting outdoor experiences, which research shows are imperative to fostering leadership skills in girls,” Goodbody says.
Written by Erin Hill | People.com