I was amazed how difficult it was to find Cracker Jacks in the store!  I almost had to use my left over caramels from last night to make some Caramel Popcorn today.  Luckily, there is a family owned grocery that had ONE bag of Cracker Jacks left.  So I scooped that out {Later today, I found some gourmet caramel corn in a shop, but I had already had my traditional classic cracker jacks so didn’t get another bag of junk food}.

Caramel Popcorn is, just as its name suggests, popcorn covered in caramel.  Caramel Popcorn, or something like it, has been around since 1893, when creaters Frederick William Rueckheim and Louis Rueckheim debuted the treat at the World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair, I believe?).  Technically though, this wasn’t “caramel popcorn” as the coating was made form molasses and not caramel.  This set the way for a new candied type of popcorn though.  Later the Rueckheims did use caramel to replace molasses to get a coating that could harden and was less sticky.

Although there are now many gourmet popcorn shopes, the most commercial of which is perhaps Moose Munch, which specialize in fancy candied popcorn, the most popular and cherished brand of Caramel Popcorn is most likely Cracker Jacks.  Cracker Jacks are caramel popcorn mixed with nuts, and commonly served at baseball games.

So this may be cheating, usually i research the info and put it in my own words, but here is all the information on Cracker Jacks!  It was too interesting and well organized to abbreviate, I figured I would just share.

Care of one of my favorite websites: Whatscookingamerica.com

1871 – According to the article How Cracker Jack Began, by Jeffrey Maxwell gives an fairly accurate story on his website:

Cracker Jack all began in 1871 with a German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim (1846–1934). He worked on a farm until he had saved 200 dollars and then started selling popcorn that was made by hand method with steam machinery, on 113 Fourth Avenue in Chicago, now known as Federal Street, in 1871. He sold popcorn to the workers who were rebuilding things that the Great Chicago Fire had destroyed. In 1873 he bought out his partner, Brinkmeyer. Then he sent for his brother who still lived in Germany, Louis Rueckheim (1849–1927). They were now called F.W. Rueckheim & Bro. They bought candy-making equipment which started marshmallow and other confections to their well off business. The brothers moved five times between 1875-1884. Then in 1885 they settled down in a three-story brick building at 266 South Clinton Street. In 1887 the building was destroyed by fire. In 1893 the brothers made combined peanuts, popcorn, and molasses.

1893 – At the first World’s Fair in Chicago (called the World’s Columbia Exposition which opened to show the world what progress Chicago had made since the fire of 1871), the two brothers came up with the idea of covering popcorn with molasses. It was billed as “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts.” People at the Worlds Fair didn’t like the stickiness and the harness of the early Cracker Jack. So Louis made a formula that made a great molasses coating that was crispy and dry. This secret formula is still a secret in the Cracker Jack Company today.

1896 – Legend notes that the name “Cracker Jack” came into use when a customer or a salesman, who tried the Rueckheim product, exclaimed “That really a cracker – Jack!” Actually the words “cracker jack” was a slang expression on those days, meaning “something very pleasing.” As the brothers loved the name “Cracker Jack,” they received a trademark for it under F.W. Rueckheim & Brother of Chicago. Their slogan was “The more you eat, the more you want” was also copyrighted that year.

1899 – 1902 Cracker Jack was sold in large tubs up until 1899, when it began to be sold in boxes. Henry Eckstein (1860-1935), a part owner and partner of the company, invented the “triple proof package” or “waxed sealed package,” a moisture proof paper package to retain freshness. This new type of packaging allowed the company to mass produce and sell Cracker Jacks worldwide, and thus become a national icon. The company was re-organized in 1902 under the name Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein.

1908 – The 1908 song called Take Me Out To The Ball Game, written by Jack Norworth (1879-1959), vaudeville entertainer and songwriter, with the line, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” immortalized Cracker Jacks. Note: This song is still sung at baseball games today. According to historians, as Jack Norworth was riding a New York City subway train, he spotted a sign that said “Ballgame Today at the Polo Grounds.” Some baseball-related lyrics popped into his head, that were later set to some music by Albert Von Tilzer, to become the well known baseball song, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

The song was first performed by Norworth’s wife, soprano Nora Bayes, at the Ziegfield Follies and, by 1910, was a staple at all big league ballparks in America. The cry, “Getcha’ peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks!” is still heard at sporting events and carnivals in America. Despite the fact that neither Norworth or Tilzer had ever been to a baseball game at the time the song was written, it is one of the most widely sung songs in America.

In 1958, on the 50th anniversary of this song, the Major League Baseball, Inc. presented Jack Norworth with a gold lifetime ball park pass.

1912 – There wasn’t always a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. In 1910, coupons were included in the boxes which could be redeemed for prizes. It wasn’t until 1912 that children’s prizes (miniature books, magnifying glasses, tiny pitchers, beans, metal trains, etc.) were place in the boxes. The company slogan was “a prize-in-every-package.”

1918 – Fred Ruekheim’s grandson, Robert (who died of pneumonia at the age of eight), was put on the box in his sailor suit with his pet dog Bingo. They called him “Jack the Sailor.” They also changes the outside of the boxes to have red, white, and blue stripes to show their patriotism during World War I. In 1919, they became registered trademark logos.

1922 – The company was named The Cracker Jack Co.

1964 – The company was sole to Borden.

1997 – Frity-Lay purchased Cracker Jack from Borden.


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