“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back!”
“Take Me Out To the Ball Game” – Jack Norworth
Forever linked to baseball, thanks to the sport’s unofficial anthem, and beloved container of free toy prizes, Cracker Jack has put smiles on the faces of children and adults alike for well over a hundred years. Some even consider it America’s first junk food, a dubious distinction for a snack that may actually be more American than apple pie.
Cracker Jack was created in 1896 by German immigrants Frederick (“Fritz”) and Louis Rueckheim, two brothers who got their start selling popcorn on the streets of Chicago before the turn of the century. They created a molasses-coated version with peanuts added which was quite tasty.
The only problem was, it tended to clump together, making it hard to both package and eat. They solved this problem by adding a little oil to the mix, then tumbling the product in a device similar to a cement mixer. Once the popcorn and peanuts were coated with the fine layer of oil, no more clumps and no more sticky fingers.
The brothers trademarked the name in 1896 which came from someone who tasted the product and claimed “That’s Cracker Jack!” This was a compliment of the highest order back in the day. Still, sales were moderate at first until the product got some unexpected free publicity that (unknown at the time) would make it one of the most popular and well-known snacks of all time.
In 1908, a songwriter named Jack Norworth was riding a subway when he noticed a poster about an upcoming baseball game. He penned the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” which made mention of Cracker Jack by name. The song proved so popular that it began being sung at baseball games. To this day, it is still sung in the middle of the 7th inning at every Major League ballpark in the country. Talk about some good marketing, and again, all for free.