It was on this day, April 17, 1913, the first prize was inserted into a box of Cracker Jack. How is Cracker Jack associated with movies? More often associated with America’s favorite past time, baseball, there was a scene from the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s… And thus we connect Cracker Jack to the movies.
Frederick “Fritz” William Rueckheim and his brother Louis mass-produced an early version of Cracker Jack and sold it at the first Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. At the time, it was a mixture of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts and was called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts”.
Rueckheim devised a way to keep the popcorn kernels separate in 1896. As each batch was mixed in a cement-mixer-like drum, a small quantity of oil was added — a closely guarded trade secret. Before this change, the mixture had been difficult to handle, as it stuck together in chunks.
In 1896, the first lot of Cracker Jack was produced. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked, “That’s crackerjack!” (a colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality).
In 1899, Henry Gottlieb Eckstein developed the “waxed sealed package” for freshness, known then as the “Eckstein Triple Proof Package,” a dust, germ and moisture-proof paper package. In 1902, the company was re-organized as Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, the song written by lyricist Jack Norworth and set to music by Albert Von Tilzer gave Cracker Jack free publicity when it was released in 1908 with the line “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!”
Prizes were included in every box of Cracker Jack beginning in 1912. One of the first prizes was in 1914 when they produced the first of two Cracker Jack baseball card issues, which featured players from both major leagues as well as players from the short lived Federal League. The prizes attained pop-culture status with the term “came in a Cracker Jack box,” referring to an object of limited value. In recent years, the toy and trinket prizes have been replaced with paper prizes displaying riddles and jokes.
Mascots Sailor Jack and his dog, Bingo, were introduced in 1918 and registered as a trademark in 1919. Sailor Jack was modeled after Robert Rueckheim, nephew of Frederick and Louis Rueckheim. Robert, the son of a third and eldest Rueckheim brother Edward, died of pneumonia shortly after his image appeared at the age of 8. The sailor boy image acquired such meaning for the founder of Cracker Jack that he had it carved on his tombstone, which can still be seen in St. Henry’s Cemetery, Chicago.
Sailor Jack’s dog Bingo was based on a real-life dog named Russell, a stray dog adopted by Henry Eckstein in 1917 who demanded that the dog be used on the packaging. Russell died of old age in 1930
1905 – Arthur Lake (Silverlake) (actor: Blondie series, It’s a Great Life; died Jan 9, 1987)
1918 – William Holden (Beedle Jr.) (Academy Award-winning actor: Stalag 17 , Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Born Yesterday, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Casino Royale, The Moon is Blue, Network, Picnic, Sunset Boulevard, The Towering Inferno, The World of Suzie Wong; died Nov 16, 1981)
1923 – Lindsay Anderson (director: This Sporting Life, The Whales of August, Glory! Glory!, Britannia Hospital, If…, O Lucky Man!; died Aug 30, 1994)
1951 – Olivia Hussey (actress: Ice Cream Man, Stephen King’s It, Psycho 4: The Beginning, Death on the Nile, The Bastard, Romeo and Juliet)
1959 – Sean Bean (actor: Goldeneye, Sharpe’s series, Patriot Games, The Field, Stormy Monday, The Lord of the Rings series)