On this day in 1918 the featured Cracker Jack ad appeared in Washington, D.C.’s Evening Star suggesting folks ship the treat to troops overseas for Thanksgiving. The fine print in the middle of the ad states:
Cracker Jack is a favorite with soldiers and sailors everywhere. They learned to love it before the war, and now nothing brings memories of happy boyhood days like this Famous Food Confection.
Evening star. (Washington, D.C.), 23 Nov. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Having been a huge fan of “this famous food confection” as a kid, I was surprised to learn it had been around so long. Apparently, the product was first introduced in 1893 by brothers Frederick and Louis Rueckheim at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Jaramillo, p. 8).
The recipe had originally called for popcorn, molasses and roasted nuts, however at the Exposition less-expensive peanuts were used instead (Smith, p. 85). The origin of the name “Cracker Jack” most likely came from the popular slang term of the time describing something as “first-rate or excellent” (p. 86).
So, as you enjoy your favorite confections tomorrow, be sure and have a crackerjack day!
Jaramillo, Alex. Cracker Jack Prizes. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989.
Smith, Andrew F. Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.
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