History

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of roasting marshmallows over the campfire came from?

The original marshmallows were a confection created by mixing the goo from the center of the marsh mallow plant (Althaea officinalis) with sugar or honey. This species of plant is native to Europe, but now grows on the East Coast, from Long Island south, presumably imported by European immigrants. The folks at Jet Puffed Marshmallows claim that the sweet originated with the Egyptians. Yet others believe it was first enjoyed by the Romans. Whatever you believe, the primitive marshmallow was around for a long time before it evolved in late 1800s France as a fancy, handmade candy.

In the early 20th century, the French version of the confection arrived in the United States and was popularized here. The marshmallow was mass produced in the early part of the century by many different companies, using an extrusion method which revolutionized the marshmallow manufacturing process. At this point, the structural component of these fluffy wonders was replaced by gelatin. Today, marshmallows are produced by only three companies, and none of them use mallow.

Ingredients of modern marshmallows: Corn syrup, sugar dextrose, food starch (corn), water, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial and natural flavor, artificial color (Blue 1).

Who started the tradition of roasting them on the fire?

No one seems to know. But the popularity of the tradition can be attributed to the fact that it is sanctioned fire play for children!

Who invented the first S'more?

No one knows. We do know the three primary ingredients (graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars) were readily available to the American public by the late 19th century and very popular in the early 20th.

American cookbooks, food history sources, and newspaper/magazine articles confirm these ingredients were used on a regular basis, but fail to provide us with a definitive person, place, and date for the invention of the s'more. Why? Until very recently, camping recipes were typically passed on by personal journals and word of mouth.

The best we can do on the history of s'mores is start with the oldest documented "proof" and hopefully, in time, work our way backwards.

Where did the idea come from? Victorian-era cookbooks contain recipes for "sandwich cookies," soft sponge-cakes filled with jam or cream fillings. American cookbooks published in the early decades of the 20th century contain recipes for chocolate sandwiches (cool) and marshmallow sandwiches (warm). American food companies were combining marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate in the 1910s. Mallomars and Moon Pies were introduced in 1913.

Any good Girl Scout can tell you that Símores stands for "some-mores" (as in "gimme some-more").

The director of the National Historic Preservation Center, Girl Scouts of the USA kindly provided this information:
We don't really have a history of how or when some-mores (or S'mores) were invented. Our records show only that they appeared first in our 1927 book Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. The 1927 recipe for "Some More" calls for:
8 sticks (for toasting the marshmallows)
16 graham crackers
8 bars plain chocolate (any of the good plain brands, broken in two)
16 marshmallows
Toast two marshmallows over the coals to a crisp gooey state and then put them inside a graham cracker and chocolate bar sandwich. The heat of the marshmallow between the halves of chocolate bar will melt the chocolate a bit. Though it tastes like "some more" one is really enough.

The 1947 Girl Scout Handbook recipe reads:
Some-Mores (serves 1)
4 squares plain chocolate (thin)
2 graham crackers
1 marshmallow
Toast marshmallow slowly over the coals until brown. Put chocolate on a graham cracker, put the toasted marshmallow on top, then another graham cracker. Press gently together, and eat. Taste like "some more." This recipe may be varied by using slices of apple (cut cross-wise) in place of the graham crackers; by using pineapple slices or peanut butter in place of chocolate."
---Girl Scout Handbook [Girl Scouts of the United States of America New York] 1947 (p. 316)

We do not really know that the Girl Scouts were the first to make and enjoy S'mores, but we also don't know of any earlier claims to this special treat. We also do not know when the name of this treat got shortened. Recipes for "Some Mores" are in various Girl Scout publications until at least 1971.