Brownies and lemonade are classic snack and drink combinations that have long been staples at picnics, potlucks, and backyard barbecues. But where exactly did these tasty treats come from? When and how were brownies and lemonade first created and popularized?
The History of Brownies
Brownies first emerged in the United States in the late 19th to early 20th century, but their exact origins are murky. Here are some of the questions around brownies and their early history:
Where did the name “brownie” come from?
There are a few theories about the name “brownie”:
- One theory suggests it refers to their brown color.
- Another theory says it comes from the Scottish mythological creatures called “brownies” that would help out households at night while people slept.
- It may also derive from the term “brownie scouts” that was sometimes used for young Girl Scouts in the early 20th century.
Where was the first brownie recipe published?
The earliest known published brownie recipe appeared in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck, & Co. catalog. It called for an egg, two squares of melted chocolate, a cup of butter, two cups of sugar, and two cups of flour.
Who is credited with inventing brownies?
There are several bakers and chefs who often get credit for inventing or popularizing brownies:
- Fannie Farmer – Included various brownie recipes in her 1896 cookbook.
- Bertha Palmer – Credited by some sources for inventing brownies and serving them at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
- Palmer House Hotel – Allegedly created the first brownie for guests of this Chicago hotel.
- Frances Houston – Developed the modern chocolate brownie recipe and sold them at her tea room in the early 1900s.
So while we don’t know definitively who “invented” them, we do know brownies became popular in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Early Evolution of Brownies
In the early 1900s, brownies started gaining nationwide attention and became more standardized:
- 1904 – Brownies are featured in the tea rooms at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
- 1907 – The first national brownie recipe is published in Lowney’s Cook Book.
- 1913 – The term “brownie” begins appearing in U.S. newspapers and magazines in dessert recipes.
- 1922 – The Brownie Girl Scout handbook is published with a brownie recipe.
As brownies rose in popularity through the 1920s, many local variations started emerging around the U.S. The classic chocolate brownie was also increasingly common and beloved.
The Modern Standardization of Brownies
In the 1930s through 1950s, brownies became more standardized into the moist chocolate treats we know today:
- 1930s – Boxed brownie mixes like Duncan Hines are introduced.
- 1940s – Brownies become common desserts in restaurants and bakeries.
- 1955 – Traditional Ghirardelli chocolate brownie mix launched.
- 1960s – Pot brownies introduced as marijuana edibles.
By the 1960s, the chocolate brownie was a well-known and beloved American treat. While new variations continue to emerge, the classic chocolate brownie remains the standard.
The History of Lemonade
Like brownies, lemonade has uncertain early origins but became standardized in the late 19th century. Here are some key questions around early lemonade:
Where did lemonade originate?
There are a few theories on early lemonade:
- India – Lemons were first cultivated in India around 2500 BC, and lemon juice drinks date back to ancient India.
- Egypt – Hieroglyphics reference lemon juice from around 2500 BC.
- Rome – Lemons arrived in Rome around 50 AD and were mixed with honey for a sweet drink.
So early versions of lemonade trace back to ancient civilizations in India, Egypt, and Rome.
When was lemonade first mentioned in print?
One of the earliest known published lemonade recipes appeared in the 1676 book The London Art of Cookery by Joseph Cooper. It called for lemon juice, sugar, and water.
When did lemonade become popular in America?
Lemonade grew in popularity in America in the mid-19th century. Key events include:
- 1851 – First lemonade stand believed to be opened in New York City.
- 1863 – Minute Maid creates the first powdered lemonade.
- Late 1800s – Pink lemonade invented by adding strawberries.
So by the late 19th century, lemonade stands and commercial lemonade were common in America.
The Standardization of Lemonade
In the early 20th century, modern lemonade became standardized:
- 1916 – First bottled lemonade released.
- 1929 – Frozen lemonade invented.
- 1934 – Lemonade carbonated for the first time.
- 1960s – Shelf-stable canned lemonade created.
So by mid-century, most of today’s popular lemonade styles were widely available and enjoyed.
Brownies and Lemonade Become an Iconic Pairing
Brownies and lemonade each became popular treats in their own right from the 19th into the 20th century. But when did they become the classic pairing we know today? Here’s a look at the history:
When were brownies and lemonade first served together?
There are no definitive records, but we can infer based on their timelines that brownies and lemonade likely first appeared together in the late 19th or early 20th century.
How did brownies and lemonade become linked as a pairing?
A few factors helped cement them as counterparts:
- Complementary flavors – The sweetness of brownies and tartness of lemonade balance each other out.
- Picnics and potlucks – Both easy portable treats for outdoor gatherings and parties.
- Children’s parties – Popular treats that both kids and adults enjoy.
Their complementary flavors and roles at casual gatherings made them natural companions.
When Brownies and Lemonade Became Iconic
A few cultural events helped solidify brownies and lemonade as an iconic duo:
- featuring brownies and lemonade together in media, TV, movies, and books
- Brownies and lemonade appeared together at county fairs and amusement parks starting in the 1920s.
- The Brownies and Lemonade record label formed in 2015, named after the pairing.
Pop culture and entertainment helped cement brownies and lemonade as a package deal in the American imagination.
In summary, while both brownies and lemonade have uncertain origins, they trace back as far as ancient India, Egypt, and Rome. Each treat went through periods of evolution and standardization from the 19th into the 20th century in America. Exactly when they were first served together is unknown, but their complementary flavors made them natural counterparts. Their joint appearance at casual gatherings, county fairs, and in media cemented them as an iconic pairing in American snack culture.