The éclair originated during the nineteenth century in France where it was called "pain à la duchesse" or "petite duchesse" until 1850. It is a popular member of the pie family served all over the world. The word is first attested both in English and in French in the 1860s. Some food historians speculate that éclairs were first made by Antonin Carême (1784–1833), the famous French chef. The first known English-language recipe for éclairs appears in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884.
In some parts of the United States, Long Johns are marketed under the name éclairs, though the two are not identical. A Long John uses donut pastry and is typically filled with vanilla pudding or custard.