Little Bits of History

Cracker Jack

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 19, 2010

Box of Cracker Jack

February 19, 1912: Cracker Jack, which has been sold since 1893, now includes “A Prize in Every Box.” In 1893, popcorn, peanuts, and molasses were mixed together and sold at the World’s Columbian Exposition – Chicago’s first World’s Fair. The Rueckheim brothers sold their unnamed treat, but it tended to clump together.

In 1896, Louis Rueckheim figured out a way to keep the popcorn from sticking together. When showing a salesman how nice this was, he is said to have exclaimed, “That’s crackerjack!” At the time, the expression was in use and meant that something was “awesome.” In 1899 Henry Gottlieb Eckstein invented a way to keep the taste treat fresh. He developed the “Eckstein Triple Proof Package” which was the wax sealed box able to keep moisture as well as “dust and germs” out of the box.

The prizes were originally things like decoder rings and baseball cards. The prizes were not of much value at the time and other items of limited value were said to have come from “a Cracker Jack box.” It was very derogatory when the phrase was applied to a degree of higher learning. These old prizes are considered collectors’ items now and can be quite valuable. A set of 1914 baseball cards recently brought in $800,000!

Small toys are no longer included due to choking hazards, but small squares of papers with games or stickers are still in each box. More than 23 billion toys have been tucked inside Cracker Jack boxes since 1912. In 1964, Borden, Inc. purchased the Cracker Jack Company, they in turn sold it to Frito-Lay in 1997. Today, the caramel corn and peanuts come in bright colored bag as well as the standard box. Sailor Jack and his dog, Bingo, are still the mascots, as they have been since 1918. The logo was not trademarked until 1919. July 5 is Cracker Jack Day.

“Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks
I don’t care if I never come back
We will root, root root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ball game” – Jack Norworth

“Those prizes in Cracker Jacks are a joke. I once got a magnifying glass. It was so poorly made, ants were laughing at it.” – Scott Roeben

“If at first you don’t succeed, find out if there’s a prize for the loser.” – unknown

“Commercially made snacks are very convenient as ‘grab-and-go’ foods.” – Karen Collins

Also on this day, in 1949 the Bollingen Prize was first awarded.

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  1. […] on this day: Cracker Jack – In 1912, Cracker Jack began to include prizes in every box. Bollingen Prize – In 1949, the […]

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