But now thanks to the tireless efforts of Barry Popik we have an "early sighting/citing." Barry searches newspapers for the earliest mention of a word he can find. He found a reference to Snickerdoodles dated 1898 on page 8 in the Boston (Mass.) Daily Globe for Jun 14, 1898. That, of course, means that the cookie was around sooner than 1898, as all etymologies reflect common usage. There is even a recipe for them submitted by M. Elizabeth Adams.
Three quarters of a cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of milk, 3 cups of flour, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon of soda. Mix; drop on a tin in spoonfuls, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and bake in quick oven.
Barry also found a cool reference to them in Boise, Idaho, in 1901 in the Idaho Daily Statesman, Sunday, October 20, 1901 on page 11: "'Snickerdoodles' is the somewhat fantastic name of quickly made little cakes especially dear to the children hearts." The old receipt for them copied from an old scrapbook says:
'Stir together two cups of sugar and half a cup of butter. When creamy, add two well-beaten eggs, then one cup of milk, with a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in it; and, lastly, add two and a half cups of flour, with two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar and half a spoonful of salt. Beat the batter thoroughly, and bake in shallow pans, dusting the top of the cake before baking with cinnamon and sugar. Bake fifteen minutes, and when cool cut in squares. This receipt will make two panfuls, which will cut into twenty-four squares.'
To learn more about Barry Popik and his work, just google him. To learn more about snickerdoodles, make them. Use Ms. Adam's recipe above.