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Not-So-Famous Firsts: Cookies

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"C" is for cookie, and that's good enough for some not-so-famous cookie firsts.

Girl Scout Cookies

The first batches of Girl Scout cookies were made at home as part of a badge-earning project. Scouts mixed batter and baked in their home kitchen with Mom lurking nearby as a "technical advisor." In 1917 a troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, brought their cookies to the local high school cafeteria and offered them for sale as part of a service project (and perhaps as a response to yet another Dad grumbling "Oh, no, not cookies for dinner again?! Can't we unload these somewhere?") The sale was so successful that the July 1922 issue of American Girl (the official Girl Scout magazine) featured a recipe for a simple sugar cookie that could be baked for about 26 cents per dozen and sold for a suggested price of 30 cents per dozen.

In 1934, the Greater Philadelphia Council became the first Girl Scout group to use a commercial baker to produce their cookies. By 1935, the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York had earned enough money via cookie sales to purchase a die with the trefoil imprint, thus producing the first "branded" cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There's a reason that Nestlé, the leading supplier of chocolate chips, is so stubborn when it comes to the nomenclature of this cookie favorite. Ruth Wakefield, who had a degree in Household Arts and who'd worked as a dietitian, found herself the mistress of a tourist lodge (called a toll house back when it was originally constructed in the 1700s) her husband purchased in Whitman, Massachusetts, in 1930. One fine day in 1933, Ruth was in the midst of concocting a batch of her famous Butter Drop Do cookies when she realized that she was out of Baker's chocolate. She decided to improvise and added pieces she'd cut off of a Nestlé Semi-Sweet Chocolate bar instead. Much to her surprise, the chocolate morsels didn't fully melt and blend into the dough; instead, they sort of semi-melted into chocolate-y chunks punctuating her cookie dough.

Customer response was so enthusiastic that the very business-savvy Wakefield contacted the folks at Nestlé and struck up a deal—they could print her recipe on packages of their semi-sweet chocolate bars in exchange for a stipend. Thanks to the royalties, Nestlé would prefer that—if the chocolate chip cookie you are enjoying contains their semi-sweet morsels—you kindly refer to it as a Toll House Cookie.

Fig Newtons

fig-newtonsBack in the late 1800s, many prominent physicians believed that the bulk of human illness was related to digestive problems. The easy, homespun remedy? A combination of fiber plus colon cleanser cleverly disguised as a cookie. Fig cakes became a local favorite in many areas, but because they were a labor-intensive confection, they remained basically a homemade treat. That changed in 1891, when an Ohio-born baker named Charles Roser patented a machine that mass-produced fig cookies. The Kennedy Biscuit Company (later Nabisco) bought the machinery and the recipe from Roser and named the new product Fig Newton, after the Boston suburb Newton, Massachusetts.

Oreo

Even though the cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookie has become synonymous with Oreo, it turns out that Nabisco's version of this iconic confection was actually a knock-off. Sunshine Biscuits launched basically the same cookie in 1908. Their "Hydrox" cookie was a huge seller until 1912, when Nabisco put Oreos on retail shelves. Sunshine was quickly kicked to the curb by Nabisco's distribution channels and advertising budget, and soon Hydrox (the original chocolate sandwich cookie) was relegated to the status of also-ran.

"˜Nilla Wafers

Nabisco's "˜Nilla Wafers have only been on the market since 1967, which makes us wonder how in the world folks made traditional banana pudding prior to that time. But—aha!—further investigation reveals a Shakespearian "what's in a name" and "a rose is a rose" situation; that is, Nabisco started producing these very same cookies back in 1929, only at that time they were called by their proper name, Vanilla Wafers. According to newspaper and magazine articles of that era, it appears that even 80-some years ago, Vanilla Wafers were used more for recipes (as a quick pie crust, as an inexpensive base for strawberry shortcake, etc.) than for simply dunking in milk and noshing.

Keebler Elves

elves-irish

Jay Leno once joked that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot was going to be replaced by the Keebler Elves. What Leno didn't realize at the time of his jibe was that he wasn't too far off the mark when it came to the physical similarities between the Notre Dame logo and the Keebler elves—the man who created the Elves was a Notre Dame graduate and staunch supporter of his alma mater.

Notre Dame alum William Harty was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing of the Leo Burnett advertising agency when the company was bidding for the Keebler account. Harty came up with the concept of cookies being baked inside a hollow tree, rather than a factory, and that mischievous (but dedicated) elves were in charge of the process. The first TV commercials featuring the Keebler elves hit the airwaves in 1967, and any resemblance between the Keebler bakers and the Notre Dame leprechaun mascot was strictly"¦..uncommonly coincidental.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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