Candy History, Nostalgic Candy Favorites

Candy History: Cracker Jacks

October 31, 2013 by

A Man and His Popcorn

popcorn-cracker-jacks2Nothing screams Americana quite like the 7th inning stretch and a box of Cracker Jacks. But would you believe this time-tested snack was created by a German immigrant and debuted not at the ballpark, but at the World’s Fair? The story of this American candy classic is an interesting one, indeed.

Frederick William Rueckheim had been selling popcorn on the streets of Chicago for years, when, in 1893, he came up with a new popcorn creation for the Chicago World’s Fair. When his brother Louis arrived from Germany, they established the F.W. Rueckheim & Bro. company to sell their popcorn together.

What is a Cracker Jack?

In 1896 the name Cracker Jack was officially registered (before then the snack had been called candied popcorn and peanuts) and the familiarly sticky and sweet candy we know today was born.

Back in the day, the term “cracker jack” could refer to anything of high quality, so it’s no wonder the name stuck! The coining of the name, however, was just the first of many big steps for this candy favorite.

Out of Left Field

Henry Gottlieb Eckstein’s invention of the “Eckstein Triple Proof Bag” in 1899 made him the perfect business partner for the Rueckheim brothers. And, in 1902, the company became Rueckheim Bros & Eckstein.

cracker-jack-retroBut it would take six more years before Cracker Jacks came into their own. In 1908, Jack Norworth penned the infamous lines of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” that shot Cracker Jacks into the limelight. Since then, no baseball game has been complete without at least one box of the crunchy, sweet treat.

Changes came to the company, fast and furious, as Cracker Jacks grew in popularity. In 1912 Rueckheim Bros & Eckstein began adding tiny prizes to each box of Cracker Jacks. Candy and toys? These guys really knew what would sell. The face of Cracker Jacks got another boost in 1918, when Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were added to the packaging.

The endearing duo was apparently based on Rueckheim’s grandson and dog. But, I’d say it’s probably not a coincidence that they appeared at the end of the 1st World War. A patriotic move, if I do say so myself.

A Home Run

cracker-jacks-originalFour years later, the company underwent another name change, this time becoming The Cracker Jack Company. This name lasted through much of the 20th century, until Borden bought it in 1964.

Today, Cracker Jacks are made by Frito-Lay. They’re still a fan favorite at baseball games, enchanting the young and the young-at-heart as they have for decades. So while the prizes may have changed over the years, you can be sure that the candy inside hasn’t changed a bit.




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  • Reply Madeline McKenna April 25, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    LOve the story of Cracker Jacks. I just recently had a very hard time finding BOXES of Cracker Jacks for my Grandson’s 13th BIrthday…….And YES, He is an awesome Baseball Player. The party consisted of Peanuts, Popcorn and Bags of Cracker Jacks from our local Baseball Stadium “The Diamond” in Richmond, Va. Home of the FLYING SQUIRRELS!!! Party included, Big League Chew, Sunflower Seeds, Baseball Cards and of course Hot Dogs!

  • Reply When Cracker Jacks had to Throw out the Toy … – FDA Storytime October 5, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    […] Starting 1912 Cracker Jacks consisted of three items: caramel covered popcorn and peanuts, and a toy. Currently the toy is placed in a plastic wrapper and then included in the popcorn and peanut mixture. This was not always the case and in the 1940s the toy (metal or plastic) was placed directly into contact with the food. […]

  • Reply Goin Strong April 9, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    There has NEVER been a candy/confection with the name “Cracker Jacks.” The name, for 125 years, has been “Cracker Jack.” One need only read the wrapper on the box.

    Sports venues around the country post it incorrectly, as does this website. It’s a pity so little attention is paid to accuracy.

  • Reply Frederick Earls June 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Frederick E.
    I have loved cracker Jack
    Since I was a kid.
    Lots times we couldn’t afford treats because our father wouldn’t give us money and eventually left our family.
    But these Candy 🌽 Pops brought a smile to my face.

    Thank you,
    Cracker Jack.

  • Reply Chase Rogers September 6, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I grew up with Cracker Jack during World War II. When we could afford a treat, my sister and I would share a box. Sadly, she died many years ago, but Sailor Jack and Bingo remain as pleasant memories.

  • Reply Geno September 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Just the name Cracker Jacks brings a tear to my eyes. What great memories. THANK YOU CRACKER JACKS

  • Reply Phillipa morris February 15, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    I have a cracker jack sailor its over 25 or 30 years old I want to see what its worth might consider selling it it was my cracker jack prize a long time ago

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