9 Things You Never Knew About Cracker Jack
It Originated in Chicago
Cracker Jack has been around for a while - since 1871 in fact. German immigrant Frederick and Louis Roueckheim created the iconic snack and sold it on Chicago's Federal Street. Some believe the sweet and salty popcorn snack made its debut at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, but that's an urban legend.
How It Got Its Name
In 1896, the brothers decided to go bigger with their product after discovering a new way to make Cracker Jack - they put kernels of molasses-coated popcorn in a cement-like mixer drum and then added a small quantity of oil. This ensured the kernels didn't stick together. That year, they registered the name "Cracker Jack." Why? Legend has it that a man sampled it and shouted "That's a crackerjack," - a colloquialism for "excellent quality." The Rueckheims decided that was the perfect thing to call it.
The Famous Song
In 1909, songwriter Jack Norworth wrote the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." One of the lines in the song is "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack! I don't care if I never get back." The song was a smash hit, giving Cracker Jack free publicity - and making the snack a staple at baseball games forever.
The Story Behind the Design
Most fans know that a Cracker Jack box has a red, white, and blue logo that features a young sailor and his dog. But what most fans don't know is that the young sailor was based on Robert Rueckheim, Louis and Frederick Rueckheim's young nephew. Sadly, Robert died from pneumonia at the age of eight years old, but he will live on forever on that box. The dog, Bingo, is based on the brothers' business partner Henry Eckstein's dog, Russell.
Bidding War for Ownership
The Rueckheims died in the 1930s, and in 1967, a bidding war took place between Borden and Frito-Lay to buy the Cracker Jack Company. Borden won but eventually sold the company to PepsiCo, Frito Lay's parent company, in 1997. The company kept the product as it was until 2013, when it announced a plan to give it a modern update.
A Favorite at Baseball Games
Cracker Jack has been a staple at baseball games basically as long as it's been around. In fact, in 1993, Wrigley Field celebrated Cracker Jack at a game between the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins - a man dressed as Sailor Jack threw out the first pitch. Then in 2004, the New York Yankees decided to sell Crunch 'n Munch instead of Cracker Jack, but switched back due to public demand. People simply LOVE Cracker Jack.
What About the Prizes?
Boxes of Cracker Jack began featuring prizes in 1912, and the company's tagline became "candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize." The first prizes were, of course, baseball cards. Throughout the years, you might have found toys, trinkets, tattoos, and papers with jokes on them in the box. As of 2013, customers can find codes on the boxes that they can redeem on the Cracker Jack smartphone app for cool swag.
You can't beat the original flavor, but that doesn't mean that the companies that have owned Cracker Jack through the years haven't tried. During the Great Depression, the Cracker Jack Company tried chocolate-covered and coconut-flavored Cracker Jack, which didn't catch on with consumers. In 1992, Borden produced a butter-toffee-flavored product. It also tried a fat-free version. In the end, Cracker Jack went back to the original.
By the Numbers
Some of the prizes from old boxes of Cracker Jack are worth thousands of dollars - some of the original baseball cards were worth about $125,000 in 2010. Since the addition of the prize in 1912, more than 17 billion prizes have hit the market. As of 2009, Cracker Jack sold has sold so many boxes that you can line them up around the world 63 times. Crazy!