Girl Scout Cookie History
An icon of American culture
For more than 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
With the announcement of National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend (the next
one is February 23–25, 2018) and the introduction of our very first
gluten-free Girl Scout Cookie, the decade was off to a big start. But
the really big news was the launch of the Digital Cookie® platform in
2014. A fun, safe, and interactive space for girls to sell cookies,
Digital Cookie takes the iconic cookie program digital and introduces
Girl Scouts to vital 21st century lessons about online marketing, app
usage, and ecommerce. But most importantly, Digital Cookie retains the
one-to-one personal approach to selling that is essential to the
success of the program and the girls who participate.
Who can forget the amazing moment in 2016 when Girl Scouts took the
stage at the Academy Awards to sell cookies to Hollywood’s A-list? It
was a stellar beginning to the nationwide celebration of the 100th
Anniversary of Girl Scouts selling cookies. The centennial
festivities continued with the introduction of Girl Scout S’mores™.
Paying homage to an iconic Girl Scout outdoor tradition— Girl Scout
S’mores quickly became the most popular new cookies to launch in our
history. As the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the
world, the Girl Scout Cookie Program is powering the next century of
girl entrepreneurs toward greatness.