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How Cracker Jack Began

Cracker Jack all began in 1871 with a German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim. He worked on a farm until he had saved 200 dollars and then started selling popcorn that was made by hand method with steam machinery, on 113 Fourth Avenue in Chicago, now known as Federal Street, in 1871. He sold popcorn to the workers who were rebuilding things that the Great Chicago Fire had destroyed. In 1873 he bought out his partner, Brinkmeyer. Then he sent for his brother who still lived in Germany, Louis Rueckheim. They were now called F.W.Rueckheim & Bro. They bought candy-making equipment which started marshmallow and other confections to their well off business. The brothers moved five times between 1875-1884. Then in 1885 they settled down in a three-story brick building at 266 South Clinton Street. In 1887 the building was destroyed by fire. In 1893 the brothers made combined peanuts, popcorn, and molasses. At the first World's Fair in Chicago the brothers sold their new item to people, who just loved it. People at the Worlds Fair didn't like the stickiness and the harness of the early Cracker Jack. So Louis made a formula that made a great molasses coating that was crispy and dry. This secret formula is still a secret in the Cracker Jack Company today. In 1896, they gave a salesperson a sample; the man shouted out "Thatís a crackerjack!" When someone said "crackerjack" it was slang for something that was really good. The brothers loved the name, and soon later it was copyrighted by them. The slogan was "The more you eat, the more you want" was also copyrighted that year.

Cracker Jack was sold in large tubs up until 1899, when it began to be sold in boxes; because Henry Eckstein teamed up with them and made a wax coved box so it would keep the freshness longer. The triple-sealed moisture-proof box was develpoed in 1902, this was just another add on from the box that they had before. In 1903, the brothers took up E.G. Eckstein as a partner, he was the company's Vice-President and Treasurer. Now the name of the company was known as Rueckeim Bros. & Eckstein. The popular song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", was made in 1908. In 1910, the company gave coupons out in the boxes. The coupons could then be sent in the mail to redeem prizes. Then in 1912 they had a great idea, so they put a prize in each box. This idea was a much needed improvement because before, children would have to wait for the prize to arrive and have to pay the shipping.

During World War One, Cracker Jack made their box with red, white, and blue stripes on the box. They also put Sailor Jack on the box around 1916 (the date is unsure). Sailor Jack came from F.W.Rueckheim's grandson and his dog who was modeled for the company. Shortly after he appeared on the box he died.

In 1917, the Ideal Novelty & Toy Company made a composition Cracker Jack doll. Later The Rueckheim Bros. Eckstein changed their name to the Cracker Jack Company because this was their major selling item in 1922. The Cracker Jack company was another popcorn confection until purchased in 1926. The Cracker Jack company purchased the building at 4800 West 66th Street in Chicago in 1930. Later on in 1933 The Cracker Jack Mystery club was established. In 1945 the first radio ads for Cracker Jack were heard. 1946 brought the first plastic prize. All prizes were wrapped in 1948. During the 50s space-age toys where a big hit for kids. In 1956 the price went up on the boxes from 5 cents to 10 cents. High speed packaging was installed so that prizes were wrapped on the packaging line in 1960. Borden Foods, Inc. bought the Cracker Jack Company in 1964, and Cracker Jack was moved out of 66th street building to Columbus, Ohio. Ranging from the 70s to 80s pinball games were in boxes. The 80s was a big ending to plastic being put into boxes. The 90s is now marked as the paper age. 1992 brought Butter Toffee Cracker Jack. Along with the heath craze of the 90s was fat free Cracker Jack in 1995. Then in 1997 Frito-Lay bought Cracker Jack. January 31, 1999 A TV add was advertised on the super bowl (the last advertisement for Cracker Jack was produced in 1984). In March of 1999 Cracker Jack sees the internet with www.crackerjack.com.

Today prizes have to be met with safty guidlines such as making it safe for a young child to not get hurt by them. Here are some of the guidlines: no shap objects, nothing that could be swallowed and it must appeal equally to boys as to girls. Once a prize is selected it takes about a year for the prize to make it into a box.

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