Laura Dean Bennett
The original cookie of consequence is back, and it’s 100 years old.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of an American staple – the Girl Scout cookie.
In 1917 the world was a different place, especially for girls.
World War I was casting its terrible shadow over the world, and America had entered the fray. The Russian Revolution was underway. Women had yet to win the vote. Hardship was being met by American grit and character.
In this environment, the Girl Scout program, founded in 1912 to help guide girls to a healthy and productive future, was born.
The very first time a girl scout cookie was baked and sold was 1917, in a kitchen in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where girls in the Mistletoe Girl Scout Troop baked sugar cookies and sold them in their school cafeteria as a Christmas service project.
It was an idea which caught on pretty quickly. Soon troops all over the country were raising money for worthwhile causes and for their own camping trips by baking cookies.
The Girl Scout cookie program became the first national entrepreneurial program for girls in the United States.
According to a recent poll, 57 percent of businesswomen who grew up in Girl Scouts say that the cookie program played a key role in helping them develop useful business skills.
And although it is in the hands of girls, this is no girly-girl business. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a big deal – an 800-million-dollars-a-year deal. That’s enough to establish the nonprofit organization as the third largest cookie company in the U.S.
When a special Girl Scout sugar cookie recipe was published in a 1922 edition of The American Girl magazine, along with a cookie-selling business plan to help troops with their sales, the Girl Scouts’ cookie selling business really took off.
Cookies specifically called “Girl Scout Cookies” were first sold in Philadelphia in 1933.
Those forward-thinking Girl Scouts had come up with a perfect example of the brilliance of branding. The name caught on and soon all the troops were following suit.
The Girl Scouts also had another good idea- celebrity endorsement. Babe Ruth was the first celebrity to be drafted by the girls, promoting Girl Scout Cookies during the 1924 World Series.
The first national sale of Girl Scout cookies took place in 1933 during the Great Depression when the nation found the pluckiness of the Girl Scouts a welcome note of cheer.
By the late 1930s, as Girl Scout Cookies gained in popularity, girls (and their moms, one supposes) could no longer bake enough cookies to meet the demand. Several commercial bakers across the country were called upon to help make the popular confections.
The trefoil-shaped shortbread was the first official Girl Scout Cookie.
During World War II, when supplies of eggs, milk, sugar and chocolate were in short supply, the girls didn’t give up their fundraising but they did suspend their cookie sales for the duration of the war.
They sold calendars to benefit their troops and war bonds to benefit their country.
By the end of the 1940s, the Girl Scouts were having their cookies baked by nearly 30 commercial bakeries. But these days, there are two bakeries supplying 10 varieties of the cookies.
By 1951 they were offering three delicious varieties, which have become the “classics:” Peanut Butter Sandwich (Do-si-dos), Shortbread (Trefoils) and Chocolate Mints, now called Thin Mints.
The 2.3 million Girl Scouts across the United States are now taking orders for approximately 200 million boxes of Thin Mints, Tagalongs and 10 other varieties as they launch their annual Girl Scout Cookie sale.
Few Americans will be spared the Siren Song of the Girl Scout Cookie.
We love them.
More than 50 million U.S. households buy Girl Scout Cookies every year. And they are even available for sale online at the Girl Scout website.
While the value of teaching girls business skills was not exactly widely understood when the Muskogee troop started selling cookies in 1917, over the years, that has changed.
These days the Girl Scouts’ stated goal of their Girl Scout Cookie sales is to develop goal setting, money management, people skills, decision making and business ethics.
Much has changed about the world and how young women fit into it since 1917, but the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of the young women of tomorrow is, obviously, still the same.
There are 75 Girl Scouts in Pocahontas County, organized in five troops. Three troops meet in Marlinton and are led by Linda Friel, Sue Moats and Shelby Barrett. The Green Bank Troop is led by Susan Ray and the Hillsboro Troop is led by Debbie Walton.
The girls will be taking orders now.
A percentage of the money they make selling cookies goes toward field trips and badges.
And if you can’t eat the cookies, but would like to make a tax deductible donation to a worthy cause, the Girl Scout troops would appreciate your support.
It’s a lot of work, but the girls can handle it. And, as Linda Friel says, “the cookies practically sell themselves. The cookies are always really good and people know it’s for a really good cause.”
Original Girl Scout Cookie recipe
Courtesy of the Girl Scouts
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Additional sugar for topping (optional)
2 eggs, well beaten
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
Cookie cutter, preferably trefoil shaped
Cream butter and one cup of sugar; add eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, salt and baking powder. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour. Roll out dough and cut into trefoil shapes and sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake at 375° for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six to seven dozen cookies.