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Vintage Advertising: How Much Do You Know About Cracker Jack?

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Cracker Jack ad

According to legend, a salesman accidentally coined the name for the Rueckheim brothers’ delectable snack food. After sampling the peanut-popcorn-and-molasses combination, he declared, “That’s a crackerjack,” using an old term for “first rate.”

The name stuck. And the packaging was also first rate — a cardboard box lined with wax paper so the contents stayed fresh. In 1908, Cracker Jack was immortalized in the song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which is estimated to be the third most frequently sung tune in America. In 1919, the company added a mascot, Sailor Jack, modeled after Frederick Rueckheim’s grandson Robert. When the boy died of pneumonia, his image was kept on the box as a lasting tribute.

Children appreciated that Cracker Jack cost only a nickel for over five decades. But they were especially drawn to the prizes in the box. In the course of 100 years, Cracker Jack delivered over 23 billion tiny prizes — puzzles, dolls, books, whistles, compasses, and hundreds more. Today, sadly, that tradition has ended, but you can scan a digital code inside the box — well, it’s a bag now — to play a “baseball-inspired mobile digital experience.” Oh, well. At least Sailor Jack’s image remains on the front of the package.

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  • Otta Sue Hill

    I have an original Cracker Jacks ad from the February 1919 Saturday Evening Post. It was in a collection of advertising art memorabilia that my brother had. We inherited this collection when he passed away December 2016. Thank you for the historical data.

  • Cracker Jack’s great. I didn’t realize the boxes were gone, replaced with bags, but still have Sailor Jack on it. That’s important. I remember the TV ad ‘candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize, that’s what you get in Cracker Jack.’ Somehow a mobile digital experience with it seems strange, but so is everything else now—-by the day.