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.