Girl Scout Cookies … 3 for a Nickel!

Starting this weekend, Western Springs’ Girl Scouts will begin selling their iconic cookies. But, do you know the origin of this great American tradition?

Early Package of Girl Scout Cookies
Early Package of Girl Scout Cookies

On May 5, 1922, an article appeared in the Western Springs Times indicating that the Girl Scout Headquarters in Chicago had recently asked local Girl Scout troops to bake and sell cookies. The article went on to explain that, to help carry on the work of the scouting program, “… one dollar of the money taken in for each batch of cookies is to be given to the Local Headquarters”. The balance, after paying for ingredients, would go to each troop’s treasury.


It was also reported that, on the prior Tuesday, the “girls of the Cardinal patrol” in Western Springs had held a cookie sale at Grand Avenue School during the morning recess period. Cookies were sold for 20¢ a dozen, 10¢ a half dozen, and three cookies for 5¢. Another cookie sale was held at Grand Avenue School the following Friday.   


Using cookie sales to finance troop activities actually began in Oklahoma in 1917. That was just five years after Girl Scouting was organized n the United States. However, it was the local Chicago director, Miss Florence Neil, who really developed the idea. She even included her own cookie recipe in the July 1922 American Girl magazine, which was published by the Girl Scouts.


The early recipe was for sugar cookies, six or seven dozen, which she said could be produced for just 26 to 36 cents. Remember, this was in 1922 when 26¢ would have been worth $3.39 in today’s currency.


Miss Neil suggested packaging the cookies in wax paper bags, sealing them with a sticker, and selling them door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen. That was a 600% profit margin!


In 1934, Philadelphia area Girl Scouts became the first council to sell commercially produced cookies. But, by 1937, more than 125 councils across the country were selling such cookies. 


During World War II, shortages of flour, sugar, and other cookie ingredients prompted the Girl Scouts to shift their fund-raising to the sale of calendars. But, by war’s end, the program resumed even stronger, with three different flavors available: shortbread, sandwich, and chocolate mint. 


Today, while the cookies are no longer 20¢ a dozen, there are no fewer than eight flavors. So, during this year’s cookie season, why not help out our local Girl Scouts and, at the same time, sample a little history. Cookies will be sold in front of Casey’s Market and/or Walgreens each weekend through March 9.  


Each week, the Western Springs Historical Society presents a “Blast from the Past”. To view prior stories, visit us at www.westernspringshistory.org. 


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