"What's the history of the Cookie Exchange?"

This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get. Since 1997, I've stated that the oldest published Cookie Exchange history that I have or know of was from a recipe pamphlet that I inherited from my mother in law, dated 1962.

After being asked this question yet again five times just this week, I decided to search the web again to seek an answer. Then the proverbial light bulb went off over my head...

I've been a member of Ancestry.com for the last few years and I have access to their extensive Historical Newspapers Collection ! When seeking information on ancestors, one can search the genealogical database by putting in a First Name and a Last Name and the dates in which ancestors lived. So my search started like this:
First Name: Cookies        Last Name: Exchange
Year Range: 1830-1930

And then I hit the Search button... and over a thousand articles pulled up!

Obviously I couldn't copy them all but I did copy a few, see my folder screenshot below and notice the dates. The earliest printed reference is 1936 in Syracuse, NY.

One would be correct and could easily say that the Cookie Exchange as we know it, came to be in the early 20th Century. The question of "who first" lingers, but the bottom line is that we will probably never know who 'thought of it first'.  It may be the kind of event that cropped up all over the place around the same time.

After copying and viewing all the above articles, I feel comfortable in reporting that the Cookie Exchange has been around for at least 70 years, as documented by newspapers around the US. It's been done by relatives, friends, neighbors, womens groups, social clubs, churches and schools and has primarily been a "ladies only" event.

We'll never know who formalized the Cookie Exchange, but if you think about it, people have been doing versions of Cookie Exchanges for as long as there have been, well, people !

For thousands of years people have been gathering in groups for feasts, making and sharing foods in a celebratory way.

In that respect the Cookie Exchange has been around forever.

-Robin Olson
Dec. 17, 2005

Permission is needed to copy my information for an article or reprint.
Email: robin@robinsweb.com

Syracuse, New York, 1936