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Generations of children, including those of us who are baby boomers, grew up eating Cracker Jack, this snack of molasses-covered popcorn and peanuts. “The more you eat, the more you want,” the advertising would say. Whether it’s a handout for Halloween trick or treaters, as in this vintage ad, or something bought at a baseball game or the zoo (where I remember it most), Cracker Jack is an American product and icon that has been sold for more than 120 years.
Here’s a little Cracker Jack trivia:
- The snack is attributed to Frederick “Fritz” William Rueckheim and his brother Louis, who formed the F.W. Rueckheim & Bro. company. (Cracker Jack has been owned by Borden and sine 1997 has been owned by Frito-Lay.)
- One story has Cracker Jack being introduced in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition, which was Chicago’s first world’s fair, but evidence for the story’s veracity is lacking.
- Henry Gottlieb Eckstein created the waxed sealed package in 1899.
- In 1908, the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, celebrated the snack in the line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!”
- The prize in each box, known as the “Toy Surprise,” started in 1912. These included baseball cards, tattoos, plastic rings, etc.
- The mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were introduced in 1916. The Cracker Jack founders modeled Sailor Jack after their nephew Robert Rueckhim, the son of their brother Edward. Sadly, Robert died of pneumonia at eight years old, soon after his image appeared. The sailor image is carved on Robert’s tombstone at St. Henry’s Cemetery in Chicago. Bingo was modeled after a stray dog, who was found by Eckstein, named Russell.
Please click here for a 1950s Cracker Jack commercial.