A History of the Oreo Cookie

An Oreo cookies advertisement circa 1924
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Most of us have grown up with Oreo cookies. There are photos of us with chocolatey remnants smeared across our faces. They've caused great disputes as to the best way to eat them—dunking them in milk or twisting off one side and eating the middle first.

Besides eating them plain, there are recipes galore on how to use Oreos in cakes, milkshakes, and additional desserts. At some festivals, you can even try deep-fried Oreos. Needless to say, Oreos have become part of the twentieth-century culture.

While most of us have spent a lifetime cherishing Oreo cookies, many don't know that since their introduction in 1912, the Oreo cookie has become the best-selling cookie in the United States.

Oreos Are Introduced

In 1898, several baking companies merged to form the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), the maker of Oreo cookies. By 1902, Nabisco created Barnum's Animal cookies and made them famous by selling them in a little box designed like a cage with a string attached (to hang on Christmas trees).

In 1912, Nabisco had a new idea for a cookie—two chocolate disks with a creme filling in between. The first Oreo cookie looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today, with only a slight difference in the design of the chocolate disks. The current design, however, has been around since 1952.

Nabisco made sure to file for a trademark on their new cookie on March 14, 1912, being granted registration number 0093009 on August 12, 1913.


The shape and design of the Oreo cookie didn't change much until Nabisco began selling various versions of the cookie. In 1975, Nabisco released their DOUBLE STUF Oreos. Nabisco continued to create variations:

1987 -- Fudge covered Oreos introduced
1991 -- Halloween Oreos introduced
1995 -- Christmas Oreos introduced

The delicious interior filling was created by Nabisco's "principal scientist," Sam Porcello, who is often referred to as "Mr. Oreo." Porcello is also responsible for creating chocolate-covered Oreos.

The Mysterious Name

When the cookie was first introduced in 1912, it appeared as an Oreo Biscuit, which changed in 1921 to Oreo Sandwich. There was another name change in 1937 to Oreo Creme Sandwich before the modern name was decided upon in 1974: Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie. Despite the official name changes, most people have referred to the cookie simply as an "Oreo."

So where did the name "Oreo" come from? The people at Nabisco aren't quite sure. Some believe that the cookie's name was taken from the French word for gold, "or" (the main color on early Oreo packages).

Others claim the name stemmed from the shape of a hill-shaped test version; thus naming the cookie in Greek for a mountain, "oreo."

Still, others believe the name is a combination of taking the "re" from "cream" and placing it between the two o-shapes in "chocolate"—making "o-re-o."

And still, others believe that the cookie was named Oreo because it was short and easy to pronounce.

No matter how it got named, over 362 billion Oreo cookies have been sold since it was first introduced in 1912, making it the best selling cookie of the 20th century.