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Tagged as "Candied popcorn and peanuts", Cracker Jacks first included a prize on this day in 1912. Excited children reached into the box and pulled out a plastic ring or a temporary tattoo or a fold and tear comic. Some historians consider Cracker Jacks to be the first junk food.
Frederick Rueckheim and his brother Louis first sold an early version of the treat at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Their first official lot of Cracker Jacks was made in 1896, the name coming from a saying "That's crackerjack!" meaning something of excellent quality. By 1902, Mr. Eckstein joined the Rueckheim brothers and the company became Rueckhkeim Bros. & Eckstein.
A song was written in 1908 called "Take me out to the Ball Game" which included the line: "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack", providing free publicity to the new company. By 1912, Cracker Jack's company adopted the slogan "Candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize". It was a propos then that Cracker Jack boxes started including baseball cards as prizes two years later.
Image courtesy psacard.com.
Mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were introduced in 1918. Sailor Jack was based on the Rueckheim brothers' nephew, Robert, and Bingo was based on a stray dog adopted by Mr. Eckstrein named Russell.
The Cracker Jack Company was bought by Borden in 1964. In 1993, on the occasion of the snack's 100th birthday, the company offered free boxes of the molasses flavoured treat to visitors to Wrigley's Field. Frito-Lay bought the company in 1997.