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The History of Sprinkles

Sprinkles have a somewhat murky history, but there are a few clues to their origins. They started popping up in the 20th century and are now considered the penultimate ice cream topping in the United States. Some believe the first sprinkles were indeed an American creation, while others give credit to the French or the Dutch. It’s certainly true that various cultures have a dessert tradition that includes sprinkles, like Dutch hagelslag and Australian fairy bread. In certain parts of the United States, sprinkles are referred to as “jimmies.” There are a few theories as to why. One version of the story claims that a worker named James “Jimmy” Bartholemew at Samuel Born’s Brooklyn-based candy company, Just Born, was the operator of the machine that made sprinkles in 1930 and Born decided to name them after their producer. However, was able to find evidence that while Just Born may have trademarked the name, sprinkles existed before Just Born was founded, so the company is not credited with their invention. Another story holds that Just Born’s sprinkles made their way to Boston in the late 1940s, where Brigham’s was the local ice cream favorite. Founded by Edward Brigham, the shop was supposedly the first to promote jimmies and include them on their ice cream cones. An additional claim holds that the name jimmies wasn’t inspired by Just Born at all, but was in fact assigned to sprinkles after Dr. Sidney Farber, an uncle of Edward Brigham, created a charitable organization named after one of his patients called The Jimmy Fund and Brigham aided this fund by charging an extra penny for chocolate sprinkles, which later became known as jimmies due to their association with the charity. While we may not know much about their origins for certain, we do know that sprinkles, or jimmies, quickly became a massively popular topping choice for ice cream cones. Today, they continue to be one of the most beloved topping choices and come in both chocolate and rainbow varieties.

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