Girl Scout Cookie History

An icon of American culture

For nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts and their enthusiastic supporters have helped ensure the success of the iconic annual cookie sale—and they’ve had fun, developed valuable life skills, and made their communities a better place every step of the way.  

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1910s
Girl Scouts team up to preserve fruits and vegetables in response to food shortages, circa 1917.

Girl Scout Cookies had their earliest beginnings in the kitchens and ovens of our girl members, with moms volunteering as technical advisers. The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917, five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in the United States, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1920s
A Girl Scout sells cookies door to door, 1928.

In July 1922, The American Girl magazine, published by Girl Scouts of the USA, featured an article by Florence E. Neil, a local director in Chicago, Illinois. Miss Neil provided a cookie recipe that had been given to the council's 2,000 Girl Scouts. She estimated the approximate cost of ingredients for six- to seven-dozen cookies to be 26 to 36 cents. The cookies, she suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen.

Throughout the decade, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers and with help from the community. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

Check out the Original Girl Scout Cookie Recipe from 1922!
Girl Scout Cookies
 
  • 1 cup of butter, or substitute
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder

Cream butter and sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, flavoring, flour, and baking powder. Roll thin and bake in quick oven. (Sprinkle sugar on top.)

This amount makes six to seven dozen.

Modern-day tips (not part of the original recipe): Refrigerate batter for at least one hour before rolling and cutting cookies. Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. 


 

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1930s
Girl Scout Cookie box, 1930s.

In 1933, Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia Council baked cookies and sold them in the city's gas and electric company windows. The price was just 23 cents per box of 44 cookies, or six boxes for $1.24! Girls developed their marketing and business skills and raised funds for their local Girl Scout council. A year later, Greater Philadelphia took cookie sales to the next level, becoming the first council to sell commercially baked cookies.

In 1935, the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York raised money through the sale of commercially baked cookies. Buying its own die in the shape of a trefoil, the group used the words “Girl Scout Cookies” on the box. In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization began the process of licensing the first commercial bakers to produce cookies that would be sold nationwide by girls in Girl Scout councils.

Enthusiasm for Girl Scout Cookies spread nationwide. By 1937, more than 125 Girl Scout councils reported holding cookie sales.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1940s
Girl Scout Seniors and Intermediates plan for the Girl Scout Cookie sale, 1940s.

Girl Scout Cookies were sold by local councils around the country until World War II, when sugar, flour, and butter shortages led Girl Scouts to pivot, selling the first Girl Scout calendars in 1944 as an alternative to raise money for activities.

After the war, cookie sales increased, and by 1948, a total of 29 bakers were licensed to bake Girl Scout Cookies.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1950s
Advertisement for Girl Scout Cookies, Girl Scout National Council Session program, 1953.

In 1951, Girl Scout Cookies came in three varieties: Sandwich, Shortbread, and Chocolate Mints (now known as Thin Mints). With the advent of the suburbs, girls at tables in shopping malls began selling Girl Scout Cookies.

Five years later, flavors had evolved. Girl Scouts sold four basic types of cookies: a vanilla-based filled cookie, a chocolate-based filled one, shortbread, and a chocolate mint. Some bakers also offered another optional flavor.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1960s
Girl Scouts show off their Girl Scout Cookie display, 1960.

During the 1960s, when Baby Boomers expanded Girl Scout membership, cookie sales increased significantly. Fourteen licensed bakers were mixing batter for thousands upon thousands of Girl Scout Cookies annually. And those bakers began wrapping Girl Scout Cookie boxes in printed aluminum foil or cellophane to protect the cookies and preserve their freshness.

By 1966, a number of varieties were available. Among the best sellers were Chocolate Mint (now known as Thin Mints), Shortbread, and Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1970s
Girl Scout Juniors, circa 1973.

In 1978, the number of bakers was streamlined to four to ensure lower prices and uniform quality, packaging, and distribution. For the first time in history, all cookie boxes—regardless of the baker—featured the same designs and depicted scenes of Girl Scouts in action, including hiking and canoeing. And in 1979, the brand-new, Saul Bass–created Girl Scout logo appeared on cookie boxes, which became even more creative and began promoting the benefits of Girl Scouting.

Girl Scout Cookies for sale during the 1970s included Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®, and Shortbread/Trefoils® cookies, plus four additional choices.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1980s
Girl Scout Cookie sale, 1983.

In 1982, four bakers still produced a maximum of seven varieties of cookies—three mandatory (Thin Mint®, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®, and Shortbread/Trefoils®) and four optional. Cookie boxes depicted scenes of Girl Scouts in action.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 1990s
Girl Scout volunteers teach a Girl Scout Brownie and Girl Scout Junior about the Girl Scout Cookie sale, circa 1990s.

In the early 1990s, two licensed bakers supplied local Girl Scout councils with cookies for girls to sell, and by 1998, this number had grown again to three. Eight cookie varieties were available, including low-fat and sugar-free selections.

GSUSA also introduced official age-appropriate awards for Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors, including the Cookie Activity pin, which was awarded for participating in the cookie sale.

Girl Scout Cookie History - 2000s
Girl Scout Daisies get in on the fun, and learning, that comes with selling Girl Scout Cookies.

Early in the twenty-first century, every Girl Scout Cookie had a mission. New cookie box designs, introduced in fall of 2000, were bold and bright, capturing the spirit of Girl Scouting. Two licensed bakers produced a maximum of eight varieties, including three that were mandatory (Thin Mints®, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®, and Shortbread/Trefoils®). All cookies were kosher. And, much to the excitement of our youngest Girl Scouts, Daisies started selling cookies!

Girl Scout Cookie History - Today
Girl Scouts embrace the modern age using the Digital Cookie™ platform to sell cookies online.

We’ve recently redesigned Girl Scout Cookie packaging, announced National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend 2016 (February 26–28), and introduced our very first gluten-free Girl Scout Cookie! But the really big news is the launch of the Digital Cookie platform—a fun, safe, and interactive space for girls to sell cookies, taking the iconic cookie program digital. A bold step into the future of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Digital Cookie introduces vital twenty-first-century lessons about online marketing, app usage, and ecommerce to Girl Scouts, who will be in the driver's seat of their own Digital Cookie businesses. But most importantly, Digital Cookie retains the one-to-one personal approach to selling that is essential to the program.

 


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Take a look at these vintage Girl Scout Cookie TV commercials!
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