Cracker Jack is a household name. Who doesn't get a bit nostalgic when they think of this retro candy? It's a classic!
It all started in 1872 when a German immigrant named Frederick Rueckheim had begun selling popcorn out of a street cart on Chicago’s Fourth Avenue. The business proved extremely successful, so much so, that he then brought his brother, Louis, over from Germany to help. The two then collaborated and tweaked the recipe to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers and the combination of molasses, popcorn and peanuts was created. Then following a hit showing at the 1893 World’s Fair, F.W. Rueckheim & Brother, as the company was known, was officially in business.
The name Cracker Jack was copyrighted in 1896. There is a pretty fun story behind the name, whether it is true or not, I'm not sure. It has been speculated that Rueckheim made up the 'Cracker Jack' name himself... but the story goes to say that 'Cracker Jack' name came from a company salesman, by the name of John Berg, who after trying the treat for the first time exclaimed, “That’s a crackerjack!” which was a fairly common phrase at that time. The term meant something was of great quality. Pretty great right! I personally prefer the story :)
Another fun fact for you! In 1908, Jack Norworth, a 29-year-old entertainer who had never been to a baseball game, wrote the now iconic song ("buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack") while riding the old Ninth Avenue El train to midtown Manhattan, where he was performing. An advertisement he saw for the Polo Grounds, the ball field where the New York Giants played, had inspired him. The reference to Cracker Jack became a huge success and the song rocketed up the charts and ever since then, Cracker Jack and the game of baseball have been synonymous.
Eventually, Cracker Jack boxes began including coupons in its packages that could be collected and redeemed for watches, silverware, other various goods. In 1912, the company decided to do away with the coupons and focus on appealing to kids and so began putting a small prize inside each box. As you might know, this tactic was incredibly successful. But as time passed on the brand underwent another change. Now owned by Frito-Lay, they made the announcement in 2016 that prizes were no longer going to be provided and that a QR code would replace the prizes, which could be used to download a baseball-themed game.
Which brings us to our final fact! Cracker Jack was hugely known for their prizes. At one time, they offered a collectible set of baseball cards in 1914 and again in 1915. Famous players like Honus Wagner and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson were amongst some of the collectible cards and are today worth quite a bit! A full set of cards can go for more than $100,000!
So now we all know a little bit more about this treat!