Archive for Thursday, July 15, 2010

That’s a Cracker Jack

July 15, 2010

How many times have we sung the song, “Take Me out to the Ballgame”? This song was written by Jack Norworth and the music composer was Albert VonTilzer. It was composed on a 30-minute subway ride in 1908.

In the lyrics the words “buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks” really did not have much meaning to me when I was a kid, but found out much later in life, about 70 years to be exact. In looking up the history of Cracker Jacks, I found that the Cracker Jack was invented by a German immigrant names Frederick William Rueckheim. In 1872 he came to Chicago to help clean up after the famous Chicago Fire. He also worked selling popcorn from a cart. Together with his brother Lewis, he experimented and came up with a delightful popcorn candy.

The brothers decided to mass market this product that was called Candied Popcorn and Peanuts. The recipe is a closely guarded secret even today. Legend has it that the name came from a customer who upon trying it out explained, “That’s really a cracker jack." The name stuck. The words at that time were a slang expression that meant something very “pleasing or excellent."

That expression was still popular when I was in grade school and the box of Cracker Jacks was high on our list of goodies. In 1912 toy surprises were put in every box and that continued forever, and some of the early metal toys are now highly prized by collectors and are worth thousands of dollars. The prizes are no longer metal but switched to cardboard games and baseball cards that are now also collectibles. I can remember how disappointed I was at no longer receiving the metal toy. Little did I know that they would become so valuable.

The wax coating of the box was introduced in 1899 making a moisture proof container. The registered trademark came in 1919 when the logo of the boy in a sailor suit and his dog was modeled by F.W. Rueckheim’s grandson, Robert, and his dog, Bingo. Borden produced the product for a short time, and then sold to Frito Lay, who owns the company today.

Buy Cracker Jacks “The more you eat, the more you want."


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