Cracker Jack

It’s the 7th inning of America’s pastime. The organ starts playing a familiar tune and the crowd stands up and sings lyrics that are familiar to almost everyone. The first four lines go like this:

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I never get back

Crackerjacks featured in Take Me Out to the Ballgame are as American as the game of baseball. It may be surprising that crackerjacks are the product of a German immigrant to the U.S., Frederick Rueckheim.

Frederick was born in 1846 and served in the German military as a youth while attending night school. He recognized that Germany was becoming more militaristic so he immigrated to America when he was 23. He had an uncle who had a farm near Chicago and that’s where Frederick began his American life.

Popcorn was a popular product, and its low manufacturing cost made it an attractive business venture for Frederick. In 1872, he created a company to sell popcorn.

Twenty years after the start of the business, Frederick developed Crack Jack (the official name). It was a combination of popcorn, peanuts, and molasses. At first, the sticky molasses was a problem. A dry crispy molasses coating was developed and still remains a trade secret. The name Cracker Jack wasn’t given to the product until years later. Also later, prizes were added to each box.

When the U.S. became involved in World War I, Frederick was faced with a lot of anti-German sentiment. He introduced a little boy Sailor Jack and his dog, Bingo on each package to show his patriotism. The boy and dog still appear on the boxes.

Often beginnings are essentially upgrading existing products to make them more attractive. The story of Cracker Jack is one such example.

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“Cracker Jacks don’t count as junk food because they’re corn and peanuts, which we know to be high in nutrition. And they have a prize inside.” – Janet Evanovich (Author)

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