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Cracker Jack facts for kids

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Cracker Jack
Type Caramel coated popcorn and peanuts
Owner Frito-Lay
Introduced 1896
Website https://www.fritolay.com/snacks/product-page/cracker-jack

Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack consisting of molasses-flavored, caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, well known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. The Cracker Jack name was registered in 1896. A slogan, "The More You Eat The More You Want", was also registered that year. Some food historians consider it the first junk food.

Cracker Jack is famous for its connection to baseball lore. The Cracker Jack brand has been owned and marketed by Frito-Lay since 1997. Frito-Lay announced in 2016 that the prizes would no longer be provided, replaced with a QR code which can be used to download a baseball-themed games.

History

Cracker Jack bag
An Everyone's Hero edition bag of Frito-Lay's Cracker Jack, featuring Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo

Frederick William Rueckheim—a German immigrant known informally as "Fritz"—sold popcorn at 113 Fourth Avenue, now known as Federal Street, in Chicago beginning in 1871. The popcorn was made by hand using steam equipment. In 1873, Fritz bought out his partner, William Brinkmeyer, and brought his brother Louis Rueckheim over from Germany to join in his venture, forming the company F.W. Rueckheim & Bro.

In 1896, Louis discovered a method to separate the kernels of molasses-coated popcorn during the manufacturing process. As each batch was mixed in a cement-mixer-like drum, a small quantity of oil was added—a closely guarded trade secret. Before this change, the mixture had been difficult to handle, as it stuck together in chunks.

According to an urban myth propagated in the 1960s by then-owner Borden Food, Rueckheim produced a popcorn confection and first presented it to the public at the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago's first world's fair) in 1893.

Naming and packaging

In 1896, the first lot of Cracker Jack was produced, the same year the name was registered. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked: "That's a crackerjack!" (meaning "of excellent quality"). The product's tagline—"The More You Eat, the More You Want"—was also introduced in 1896.

In 1899, Henry Gottlieb Eckstein developed the "waxed sealed package" for freshness, known then as the "Eckstein Triple Proof Package", a dust-, germ-, and moisture-proof paper package. In 1922, the name of the Chicago company was changed to The Cracker Jack Company.

The faces of Cracker Jack

Enlist Cracker Jack ad
1918 Cracker Jack ad, asking readers to enlist in the Navy. Eating Cracker Jack would save valuable sugar and wheat for the war effort

Cracker Jack's mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were introduced as early as 1916 and registered as a trademark in 1919. Sailor Jack was modeled after Robert Rueckheim, grandson of Frederick. Sailor Jack's dog Bingo was based on a real-life dog named Russell, a stray adopted in 1917 by Henry Eckstein, who demanded that the dog be used on the packaging.

Connections with baseball

Cracker Jack is known for being commonly sold at baseball games and is even mentioned by name in the American standard "Take Me Out to the Ball Game". On June 16, 1993, the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack was celebrated at Wrigley Field. Before the game, Sailor Jack, the company's mascot, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Toys

Crackerjack2
Cracker Jack box from the Borden ownership period

Cracker Jack originally included a small "mystery" novelty item referred to as a "Toy Surprise" in each box. The tagline for Cracker Jack was originally "Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize", but has since become "Caramel-coated popcorn & peanuts" under Frito-Lay.

Prizes were included in every box of Cracker Jack beginning in 1912. One of the first prizes was in 1914, when the company produced the first of two Cracker Jack baseball card issues. Early "toy surprises" included rings, plastic figurines, booklets, stickers, temporary tattoos, and decoder rings. Books have been written cataloging the prizes, and a substantial collector's market exists.

Until 1937, Cracker Jack toy prizes were made in Japan. They were designed by Carey Cloud from 1938.

The prizes attained pop-culture status with the catch-phrase "came in a Cracker Jack box," particularly when applied sarcastically to engagement and wedding rings of dubious investment value.

Under Frito-Lay, toy and trinket prizes were replaced with paper prizes displaying riddles and jokes, then temporary tattoos. In 2013, some prizes became codes for people to play "nostalgic" games on the Cracker Jack app through Google Play for Android-powered devices. The announcement was made in 2016 that these game-plays would replace tangible prizes.

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