For more than 120 years, consumers everywhere have been snacking on the crunchy, sweet taste of caramel coated popcorn and peanuts found inside boxes (and now bags) of Cracker Jack. And for those who have truly grown up with the sweet treat, they’ll also recall enjoying the small prizes packed inside. Each package featured a little boy and dog together as the brand’s mascots — Sailor Jack and his pup, Bingo.
Let’s take a deeper look at the inspiration behind this iconic duo and the creation of Cracker Jack from how the snack got its name to being featured in one of the most recognizable baseball songs of all time.
The first introduction of Cracker Jack by creator Frederick William Rueckheim (also known as F.W.) occurred in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago’s first world fair. A unique blend of popcorn, peanuts, and molasses, the confection wouldn’t get the name we know it by now until 1896. That was the year that Louis Rueckheim, F.W.’s brother and partner, gave a salesman a sample of the treat. He exclaimed, “That’s a crackerjack!” While the colloquialism generally means “super” or “nifty,” Louis instantly knew it would be the name of their snack and had the words trademarked.
In 1908, the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game was written and composed by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer. Y’know the famous “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” line in the ditty? That was none other than Cracker Jack they were referring to — and since then, more 100 versions of the song have been recorded.
From 1910-1911, boxes of Cracker Jack originally came with coupons that could be redeemed for premium items like clothes and sporting goods. These were phased out in 1912, when small prizes were inserted into each package.
Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo made their first debut on newly designed red, white, and blue packaging during WWI in 1918. The pair had real life inspirations too. Sailor Jack was modeled after F.W.’s young grandson, Robert, while Bingo was based on a stray dog adopted by the Rueckheim brothers’ business partner, Henry Eckstein.
Cracker Jack began making television ad appearances in 1955 with Sailor Jack and Bingo featured in several spots over the decades. In the 1980s, Sailor Jack even stepped “out” of the packaging to share news of instant winner packs inside of boxes of Cracker Jack.
Since then, Cracker Jack has been made its commercial debut for the Super Bowl XXXIII and even had its own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 2018 marks the 125thanniversary of the brand and all we can confirm for now is that fun, dare I say, crackerjack good ideas on their way for fans of all ages. Stay tuned!