According to the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Oreo brand cookies were introduced to the American public by the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) on March 6, 1912. It is registration #0093009. Nabisco is now owned by Kraft Foods.
“On April 2, 1912, the company’s [National Biscuit Company] operations department announced to its managers and sales agents that it was preparing “to offer to the trade…three entirely new varieties of the highest class biscuit in a new style…The three varieties of biscuit…will be known as the Trio. “The varieties comprising the ‘Trio’ are as follows, namely: Oreo Biscuit–two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream fillling at 30 cents per pound.
Mother Goose Biscuit–a rich, high class biscuit bearing impressions of the Mother Goose legends at 20 cents per pound. Veronese Biscuit–delicious, hard
sweet biscuit of beautiful design and high quality at 20 cents per pound. This Trio is an exciting innovation, and we are quite sure it will immediately appeal to public favor…two members of the trio most lavishy promoted in the inital announcement have since disappeared.
But the third, Oreo, was evidently just the kind of cookie the American consuming public wanted. Somewhat similar to a previous product named “Bouquet,” the Oreo consisted of two firm chocolate cookies with rich vanilla frosting in the middle. The first Oreos were slightly larger than today’s product, but always round. Within a short time Oreo, which resembled an English biscuit, became a fantastically good seller among NBC sweet goods…The origin of the name is not really known, although one possibility is that it came from the Greek oreo, meaning hill or mountain.
Supposedly, either in testing or when the product was first produced, it was shaped like a baseball mound or hill-hence, an oreo. This has a certain validity in view of A.W. Green’s [company executive] tendency toward classical names. Oreo was officially registered in 1913 as “Oreo Biscuit.” By 1921 it had become “Oreo Sandwich” and by 1948 “Oreo Creme Sandwich.” Variations have been tried–a vanilla Oreo, a single-cracker Oreo, and in the 1920s a lemon-filled Oreo was introduced. The size has undergone changes, too.
Today’s is about midway between the largest and the smallest. Through all shifts in public preferences, Oreo has remained one of the nation’s most consistent favorites. As frequently happens with popular products, there are people who fancy that they contributed to is creation. An Oreo admirer once wrote to the company “During the early 1920’s you have a contest offering a cash reward for a suitable name for this particular cookie. I entered this contest and submitted the name Oreo.
Time passed, I learned or heard nothing concerning the matter, so gave it no further thought until this past Sunday night….If you will kindly check your records concerning the said contest, I am sure that in them you will find I am the one who submitted the trade name, Oreo.” The company answered, “We think that you must be confused about the origin of the trademark Oreo. It was not originated as the result of a contest in the early 1920’s or at any other time. It was originated by our advertising department, and first used on March 6, 1912.”
—Out of the Cracker Barrel: From Animal Crackers to ZuZu’s, William Cahn [Simon & Schuster:New York] 1969 (p. 142-4)
“Oreo. A trademark name…for a cookie composed of two thin chocolate cookies enclosing a white creme filling. The name…was apparently made up by the company. It has been suggested that the name may derive from the French word for gold “or” because the original package had the product name in gold. Another guess is that the word is from the Greek for ‘mountain’…The first Oreos were sold to a grocer named S. C. Thuesen on March 6, 1912…Oreos were not, however, the first cookie of this type: “Hydrox Cookies” had been on the market since January 1, 1910, but Oreos have been far more successful.”—The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 225)
About the cookie’s design: “The ornamental pattern of the wafer itself…is Oreo’s visual signature. Stampled out by brass rollers passing over sheets of chocolate dough, the pattern consists of a series of four-leaf clovers around the word “OREO,” which is set within the traditional trademark of Nabisco, its manufacturer–that trademark being a horizontal oval with what looks like a television antenna extending up from it. Around the clovers, a broken line forms a broken circle. Beyond that, the outer edge of the cookie is slighly ridged, serving both as a visual frame for the ornamental center and as a means of grasping the cookie with comparative ease.
As a design, it is pleasantly dowdy, like the wallpaper one might find in an old country house, or the wall stenciling that was common in the early years of this century, when the Oreo was created. Although spokesmen for Nabisco say there have been no significant changes in the cookie (except for its size), magazine advertisements from past uyears show that this has not been the case.
In the 1950’s, for example, the word “OREO” was set in a circle, which was surrounded by what appears to be a garland of petals. It was a more graceful look a bit closer in appearance to that of the Oere’s erstwhile competitor, the Hydrox brand produced by Sunshine Bakeries. Hydrox is the Pepsi to the Oreo’s Coca Cola; it acutally predates Oreo, though it is less popular.
The Hydrox’s ornamental pattern is at once cruder and more delicate than the Oreo’s; the ridges around the edge are longer and deeper, bu the center comprises stamped-out flowers, a design more intricate than the Oreo pattern.”
—“Machine Imagery, Homey Decoration,” Paul Goldberger, New York Times, June 4, 1986 (p. C6)
Where is “Oreo Way?”
“Q. Why is 15th Street at Ninth Avenue now called Oreo Way?
A. Because that is the birthplace of America’s favorite cookie. IN 1898 several baking companies merged to form the National Biscuit Company, Nabisco, and opened a large industrial bakery on Ninght Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets at the Chelsea Market Building…In 1912, Nabisco had an idea for a new cookie: two chocolate disks with sugar icing in the middle. That year Nabisco sold its first package of Oreos to a store in Hoboken, N.J. Since then Nabisco has made more than 450 billion Oreo cookies. It was the best-selling cookie of the 20th century. Last year Americans dunked, twisted and chomped nearly 12 billion Oreos. Nabisco moved out of the Chelsea Market building in 1958 and now produces Oreos in bakeries around the world.”
—“450 Billion Oreos to Go,” Ed Boland Jr., New York Times, July 28, 2002 (p. CY2)