The other morning, Cookie Panache received a very unique order: Sock Monkey sugar cookies! Naturally, we all went crazy. Who doesn’t love a childhood classic? Then, I started wondering what makes the Sock Monkey such an American icon? As the name suggests, the Sock Monkey is a stuffed animal fashioned from a sock to look like a monkey. However, the origin of this beloved little guy is very fascinating.
Part I: The Monkey
The sock monkey’s ancestor comes from the Victorian era in Great Britain. Popular culture, influenced by the “Scramble for Africa” (history lesson: the nickname given to the dramatic growth of European colonization in Africa between 1881-1914), took interest in exotic animals, plants and crafts from Africa. The result was an increase in monkey inspired toy production. These toys were not necessarily produced from the sock, but were very popular with the kids. This new trend extended beyond Europe, it affected the United States as well.
Part II: The Sock
Meanwhile, across the ocean John Nelson, a Swedish immigrant to the United States, patented a sock sewing machine in 1869 and began produced low-cost work socks for the average American factory worker. These socks were unique. They had red heels so consumers knew they were purchasing authentic Nelson Knitting Company socks. (Can you guys guess where this is going?) Mothers across the country started using these socks to sew low cost, plush monkey toys for their children with cute, little red smiles. The outcome? Dad’s extra work sock doubled as the perfect companion for kids, especially during the Great Depression and World War I . The rest of the story is just some patent history and the development of an American icon.
Now that is what we call crafty. Cookie Panache is very proud to carry on the tradition of this particular American sweetheart. Our sugar cookie imitation may not be quite as vintage as the Sock Monkey, but they sure are as cute.