Anyone who has ever spent time in the company of “little people” might be familiar with the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”…”If You Give A Pig A Pancake”…”If You Give A Moose A Muffin” series of children’s books. If so, I can already see a smile inching across your face as you recall the delightful misadventures that lead our animal protagonists on their roundabout journeys — right back to where they began. Today, we’re going on a similar circular trip that all starts when you give a Girl Scout some cookies!
It all began almost 100 years ago, when a scant five years after Juliette Gordon Low brought the European Girl Guides to the United States as Girl Scouting in 1912, a source for funding troop activities landed in the kitchens of young girls — led by the expertise of their mothers. Little did these young ladies realize their humble beginnings in 1917 would lead to a nationwide, multi-billion dollar enterprise almost a century later!
That very first Girl Scout Cookie Sale occurred during December in Muskogee, Oklahoma and sponsored by, appropriately enough, the Mistletoe Troop! This local service project took root — and gained notice — on the national level and within five years garnered recognition in the official American Girl Magazine published by the National Girl Scout headquarters. Florence E. Neil — a director in Chicago, Illinois — wrote an article featuring a basic sugar cookie recipe that had been donated to 2,000 of the local scouts in her area.
Demonstrating the enterprising spirit that has always been at the heart of the annual cookie sales, Mrs. Neil calculated the cost of ingredients for six to seven dozen cookies at somewhere between 26 and 36 cents…AND that the girls could sell a dozen of their homemade cookies for between 25 and 30 cents per dozen with the profits staying in their local troops. Thus, an empire was born!
For a little nostalgia, try whipping up this original Girl Scout Cookie recipe:
Girl Scout Cookie, circa 1922
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar plus additional amount
- for topping (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired.
Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.
Don’t worry…we didn’t have to break into any secret vaults…it’s readily available right on the Girl Scout website! These hot-from-the-oven homemade treats continued to be sold door-to-door in simple wax paper bags and sealed with a sticker throughout the 1920s into the 1930s. That’s when cookie sales took a giant leap forward as the Greater Philadelphia Council became the first group to sell commercially-baked cookies in 1934. From there, the “sweet” idea spread like icing on a warm cookie:
- 1935: Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York raised funds through the sale of commercial cookies
- 1936: National Girl Scout organization officially licensed the first commercial bakery to produce cookies that could be sold nationwide by local councils
- 1937: More than 125 local councils across the country participated in fundraising cookie sales
- 2007: National cookie sales topped 200 MILLION boxes
- 2013: Currently, only two bakeries are licensed to produce official Girl Scout cookies for the entire nation: ABC Bakers & Little Brownie Bakers
Not only do these annual cookie sales assist in funding troop activities for the entire year, but also teach entrepreneurial, marketing, financial management and cooperative skills that have “real life” applications for these future leaders of society. With approximately 70% of profits staying in their local councils, Girl Scouts also experience a sense of empowerment as they can have a direct impact on funding their own local activities, camps and troops!
So, why on earth is a Dental website writing about cookies — with sugar — of all things!? NO…it’s not so you all get more cavities for us to treat! It’s really a lot more simple than that — we care about our community, about the children in our community and contrary to popular belief, Dentists don’t hate all things sweet! And, let’s face it — there’s nothing sweeter than the smile on a girl’s face when she knows she’s done something good and has accomplished something that gives her pride.
At The Smile Center, we believe in giving children a better future and in making our community a better place — a lot like the Girl Scouts do. So, go ahead…give yourself a cookie, because if you do it just might lead to a smile…and a whole lot more!