The first known cookie sales by an individual Girl Scout unit were by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in December 1917 at their local high school. In 1922, the Girl Scout magazine The American Girl suggested cookie sales as a fundraiser and provided a simple sugar cookie recipe from a regional director for the Girl Scouts of Chicago.

In 1933, Girl Scouts in Philadelphia organized the first commercial sale, selling homemade cookies at the windows of the Philadelphia Gas and Electric Company (PGE). From 1933 to 1935, organized cookie sales rose, with troops in Philadelphia and New York City using the cookie-selling model to develop the marketing and sales skills of their local troops.

In 1936, Girl Scouts of the USA began licensing commercial bakers to produce cookies, in order to increase availability and reduce lead time, starting with Keebler-Weyl Bakery. Southern Biscuit Company and Burry Biscuit, both later acquired by the Interbake Foods division of George Weston Limited, were added in 1937. One hundred twenty five troops launched cookie sales that first year.

During World War II the Girl Scouts sold calendars in addition to cookies, because of shortages of flour, sugar, and butter. In 1943 there were 48 cookies per box. By 1943 Girl Scouts also collected fat in cans to aid the war effort and sold war bonds at no profit.

In the 1950s, three more cookie recipes were added. Six types of cookies were being sold nationwide by 1956.

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