The History of An American Favorite – Girl Scout Cookies
February is that special time of year when one can get those special packaged desserts that so many love. Oh, and we’re not talking about Valentine’s Day or heart shaped boxes full of chocolate (although those are nice, too).
We’re talking about Girl Scout cookies, the guilty pleasure of some and a wide-open love affair that many await eagerly. Once the month of February hits, you may notice on your social media site that folks are asking when the Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, and Trefoils that they love so much are going to be sold.
So, in honor of these fun and amazing cookies loved all over the nation, let’s take a look at the history of Girl Scout cookies.
The History of Girl Scout Cookies
In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low started the Girl Scouts in the United States. The history of Girl Scout cookies brings us to five years after that, to the year 1917. These famous cookies started out being baked at the homes of the girl scouts by their very own mothers, who had volunteered for the cause as technical supervisors, then they were sold as a means to raise funds for troop activities.
As a service project, the Mistletoe Troop of Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked and sold their cookies in the local high school’s cafeteria, thus beginning the sale of Girl Scout cookies as we know them today.
Then, in July of 1922, the Girl Scouts of the USA’s magazine publication, American Girl, featured an article written by a Girl Scout troop director from Chicago, Illinois, named Florence E. Neil. That article contained a cookie recipe that had been given to the Girl Scouts, which she surmised that the cost of producing six or seven dozen of these cookies was, at the time, anywhere from 26 to 36 cents. Then she suggested that these cookies could then be sold reasonably by the troops at prices from 25 to 30 cents per dozen, which would make them a decent profit.
For the remainder of the roaring 20’s, the girls, their mothers, and other volunteers from their communities, continued to bake simple sugar cookies, which were then packaged in wax paper bags and a special sticker. Then, the girls would take their cookies door-to-door for sales of 25 to 35 cents per dozen.
Meanwhile, the 1930’s saw a revolution in how Girl Scout cookies were sold. The Girl Scouts of Greater Pennsylvania Council baked and started selling their cookies in the windows of the city gas and electric company in the year 1933. Each box of cookies, which contained 44 cookies, was sold for just 23 cents, or thin mints a bundle of six boxes came out to $1.24.
These Girl Scouts took this experience and used it to learn marketing and business skills in order to better raise money for their council, and within the next year, they were the first council to sell cookies that had been baked commercially as opposed to home made by their mothers and volunteers.
This inspired the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York to also dabble in selling commercially produced cookies in the year 1935, but they took it a step further by purchasing their own die in the shape of a trefoil and printing “Girl Scout Cookies” on their boxes. This caused the National Girl Scout Organization to begin the process of licensing the first commercial-level bakers to make cookies to be sold by Girl Scouts nation-wide in the year 1936.
Word spread about Girl Scout cookies, and because word travels fast, there were over 125 Girl Scout councils having cookie sales by the year 1937. However, by the time the 40’s rolled around and World War II had hit, ingredients for the cookies such as flour, sugar, and butter were hard to come by. Thus, the Girl Scouts had to get creative and find an alternative means of fund raising, which ended up being Girl Scout calendars.
But once the war was over, cookie sales began to rise again, and 29 bakers were officially licensed to bake cookies for the Girl Scouts by 1948.
As of 1951, Girl Scout cookies came in three different varieties, which were Sandwich, Shortbread, and Chocolate Mint (which we now know as Thin Mints). In the years after the war as things began looking up, Girl Scouts had started selling their wares at tables in shopping malls, much like the Girl Scouts of today do at local grocery stores and malls all over the country.
By 1956, the Girl Scouts had offerings of four different kinds of cookies, which consisted of Chocolate Mint, a vanilla-based filled cookie, a chocolate-based filled cookie, and their shortbread. However, some bakers did offer other flavors as options as well.
The 1960’s saw many of the little girls from the Baby Boom begin to join the scouts, thus increasing cookie sales tremendously. There were 14 licensed bakers making cookies by the thousands for Girl Scout troops all over the nation yearly, and now they were packaging those cookies in cellophane or aluminum in order to help maintain their freshness. The year 1966 saw an even bigger variety of Girl Scout cookies, including their best sellers, which were Chocolate Mint, Shortbread, and Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies.
The late 70’s brought even more changes to the Girl Scout Cookie industry, such as taking their number of licensed bakers down to only four in order to keep prices down and to ensure that quality, distribution, and packaging remained uniform. By 1978, all Girl Scout Cookie boxes looked the same and showed Girl Scouts all over the nation doing activities like hiking and canoeing. Cookie sales of the 70’s included their now-renamed Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies (which became Do-si-dos), and Shortbread (later renamed Trefoils) as well as four other options. The 80’s would see much of the same, but there were changes on the horizon in the 90’s.
By the early 90’s, three licensed cookie makers would bake the cookies for local girl scouts, as their numbers had gone up to eight different kinds of cookies at this point, which included low-fat and sugar-free cookies.
This was also when the Girl Scouts of the USA began introducing official awards for the Girl Scouts according to their ages (Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors), and this included the cookie pin, which weas awarded to those who had participated in cookie sales.
The turn of the century brought even more changes to the Girl Scouts and their cookie business, including brighter packaging, cookies with a mission, and of course the integration of technology to set up digital platforms in order to help boost cookie sales. Girl Scout S’Mores were launched and quickly became the most popular Girl Scout cookie to launch in the history of the Girl Scouts. In the year 2021, all Girl Scout cookies were deemed kosher and were Halal certified. They also have a variety of gluten-free and vegan cookies for more inclusion in their cookie sales.
As of 2022, a new cookie is in town, and they’re called Adventurefuls, which is inspired by brownies and has a caramel creme topping as well as a hint of sea salt.
Support Your Local Girl Scouts
So, if you enjoy Girl Scout cookies as much as we do, be sure to support your local troops, because these sales fund all of their activities and endeavors for the coming year.