The history of Scouting and s’mores

A photo published in the April 15, 1914, issue of Scouting magazine shows Scouts roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

The Girl Scouts are widely credited with inventing the concept of sandwiching a fire-roasted marshmallow between graham crackers and chocolate and calling it a s’more.

So before we go any further, let me just say one thing on behalf of the millions of Boy Scouts and Venturers who have enjoyed these campfire treats over the past nine decades: Thanks, Girl Scouts!

But did you know that the tradition of Scouts browning marshmallows (or blackening them, if you’re weird and prefer them burnt) over a fire began well before s’mores blazed onto the scene in 1927?

It’s true.

In The Official Handbook for Boys, the first Scout handbook published in 1911, Scouts are introduced to the deliciousness of toasting marshmallows. Perfectly preparing a marshmallow is, of course, the first and most important step in making s’mores.

Campfire Marshmallows finds its customer

By putting marshmallow roasting in the Scout handbook, the BSA was essentially recommending the practice to boys all over the country.

The company that made Campfire Marshmallows, introduced in 1917, saw a natural customer base.

They started buying ads like the one below, seen in the June 1920 issue of Boys’ Life. The ad reminds Scouts that they’ll “want delicious toasted marshmallows” at summer camp again this year.

Later ads told Scouts to carry marshmallows as snacks on hikes because they’re “high in food value, pure and wholesome” or to pack them as a “healthful” lunch.

Marshmallows always catching fire? Try this

In later years, Boys’ Life started publishing s’mores hacks. This was well before “hack” became a word for a simple tip that makes your life easier.

In BL‘s February 1986 issue, reader Kevin Gerber of Austin, Minn., shared his method for keeping the outside of marshmallows from burning while roasting them.

“The answer is simple,” Kevin wrote. “Just dip the marshmallow in water before holding it over the flame.”

Another s’mores hack, published in the December 2009 BL, came from Jarod Spencer of Troy, Ill.:

“Instead of using graham crackers and chocolate when making s’mores, use fudge-striped cookies,” Jarod wrote. “Your s’more will be easier to handle, and you won’t drop your chocolate on the ground.”

There’s s’more where that came from. (Sorry.)

BL published this list of 10 Tasty S’mores Variations, including one I have to try: Ritz Crackers S’mores, where the salty Ritz replaces the graham cracker.

Enjoying s’mores safely

And finally, just because nobody wants a flaming marshmallow burning off their eyebrows, please take a second to read these BSA tips for enjoying s’mores safely.

17 Comments

  1. They’ve sure got their tents close to the fire in that picture at the top! 🙂 And the pic is a little grainy, but I think that one kid is wearing a tie!

  2. At winter camp we camp in a cabin. I construct the s’mores on a cookie sheet and place them in the broiler of the oven. Cook them till the marshmallow tops are golden brown. The heat is enough to melt the chocolate. Yum a gooey mess….

  3. Our troop has moved to the phase of finding the next great thing to roast in the fire — currently the troop favorite is to roast a Starburst over the fire – it makes a crunchy coating and a melted center with the smokey tast on the pure sugar… you can’t beat it (mind you don’t burn your toungue though)

    Another troop pleaser is when a camp mom shows up with Krispy Kreme donuts, we use the fish roaster and cut the donuts in half and make smores with the donuts in the fish roaster over the fire — cut the donut in half and flip it so the bready side is facing out, put the chocolate on the donut, roast the marshmallow, put it on the chocolate, put the other half of the donut on, and roast over the fire till the donuts are toasted on both sides….. you have now made everyone in the troop diabetic…. (just jokes people)

    And for when you are supposedly looking for a “healthy” snack to roast in the fire, go with roasted bananas – simply cut a slit in the banana, and slice the banana like you would for cereal, but leave it in the peel, now stuff in chocolate, marshmallows, peanut butter, really whatever your heart fancies, now wrap it all up in tin foil and put it on the coals and let it roast for 15 minutes. putt it off and grab a spoon… the more fillings you put in there there better it’s going to be, go wild.

  4. We recently tried a version where you take a sugar cone, stuff it with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and caramel bits, wrap it in foil, and bake it on a grate over coals like a foil dinner. Works great and fits in with the foil dinner theme for one of the Cooking MB requirements. Can’t remember if I saw the recipe here or in Backpacker magazine!

  5. Have I got a new s’more idea for you. You take a bag of teddy grams we mix regular and chocolate flavor. Add mini marshmallows then we set out dishes with extras , chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, heath bar , bananas, peanut butter, we put in tin foil and cook in the fire . No mess and can have added toppings as you like, cherry pie filling marshmallows and chocolate kisses are my favorite!!

  6. I’ll have to try this “dip your marshmallow into water” thing for faster cooking. What works for me is holding it above the heat and just taking my time, until the marshmallow swells to a pleasing golden brown.

  7. The combination of the toasted marshmallow with chocolate and graham cracker may be traced to a published recipe by the campfire girls. The campfire marshmallow company also encouraged it.

  8. My “next level” is imported chocolate bars … Usually as awards to crew officers during a successful activity, or to the Venturer with the voted best tale of a face plant during a ski trip.

    Dark chocolate with razberry works especially well in a s’more. Worth it to have to pick some out of the beard later!

  9. Try Reeses peanut butter cup instead of hershey bar. That’s my favorite. Or mini milky way or snickers. They need a little more heat than the marshmallow privides so i set them on a plate near the fire to “prewarm”. We love to experiment with a campfire right after halloween.

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