Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun Fare: The Origins of Cracker Jack

The Origins of Cracker Jack

The origins of Cracker Jack make for an interesting tale. It was invented by a German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim, who immigrated to Chicago in 1872 to help clean up after the famous Chicago fire. Rueckheim also worked selling popcorn from a cart; however, after some experimentation along with his brother Louis, they “tripped upon” a wonderful popcorn and peanut candy mixture, which the brothers decided to mass market. Consequently, Cracker Jack was first mass-produced and sold at the first Chicago World's Fair in 1893. (The legendary Ferris wheel, Aunt Jemima pancakes, and the ice cream cone also made their debut at the event.)

The new and interesting treat was a combination of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts and its initial name was "Candied Popcorn and Peanuts." As the legend is told, the name "Cracker Jack" came from a satisfied customer who exclaimed, "That really a Cracker - Jack!", and the name stuck. Furthermore, "crackerjack" also was a slang term during the time, which expressed something fantastic or very pleasing and it seems more logical that this is the origin of the name.

By 1896, the Cracker Jack Company devised a way to keep the popcorn kernels separate because until then the mixture stick together in chunks. The wax-sealed, moisture-proof box was introduced in 1899 and the tasty treat became immortalized in 1908 in the lyrics of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and became a favorite at ball parks. Cracker Jack added surprises in each package in 1912.

In today's fast-paced, on the go, trying to eat healthy world Cracker Jack may not be the first choice snack of parents and children who want a nutritious and more health diet; however, for a periodic mega-treat, Cracker Jack is a delightful and unique experience.

Some Cracker Jack Trivia taken from the Cracker Jack site http://www.crackerjack.com/, Wikipedia and a few other sites:

• In 1912, toy surprises were first put into every Cracker Jack box, since then over 17 billion toys have been put into boxes (1986 estimate).

• "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," written in 1908 by Norworth and Von Tilzer contains a reference to "Cracker Jack" in the lyrics.

• The boy on the Cracker Jack box image (right) is Sailor Jack and his dog is called Bingo.

• The Sailor Jack character, and his dog Bingo, were introduced as registered trademark logos in 1919 and in use as early as 1918. They were modeled on F. W. Rueckheim’s grandson, Robert, and his dog.

• The Cracker Jack Company was sold to Borden in 1964.

• In 1997, the manufacturer Frito-Lay purchased Cracker Jack from Borden and is the current owner.

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