On this Day:
In 1913, the 1st prize was inserted into a Cracker Jack box.
Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack food that consists of molasses-flavored, caramel-coated popcorn, and peanuts, well known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. The Cracker Jack name and slogan, “The More You Eat The More You Want”, were registered in 1896. Some food historians consider it the first junk food.
Cracker Jack is famous for its connection to baseball lore. The Cracker Jack brand has been owned and marketed by Frito-Lay since 1997. Frito-Lay announced in 2016 that the toy gift would no longer be provided and had been replaced with a QR code which can be used to download a baseball-themed game.
In Chicago there are two legends of how Cracker Jack originated: The older attributes it to Charles Frederick Gunther (1837-1920), also known as “The Candy Man” and “Cracker-Jacks King”; the other attributes it to Frederick William Rueckheim, a German immigrant known informally as “Fritz”, who sold popcorn at 113 Fourth Avenue (now known as Federal Street), in Chicago beginning in 1871. The Rueckheim popcorn was made by hand, using steam equipment. In 1873, Fritz bought out his partner William Brinkmeyer and brought his brother, Louis from Germany to join in his venture, forming the company F.W. Rueckheim & Bro.
The Rueckheim Brothers produced a new recipe including popcorn, peanuts, and molasses, and first presented it to the public at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s first World’s Fair) in 1893. The molasses of this early version was too sticky.
In 1896, Louis discovered a method to separate the kernels of molasses-coated popcorn during the manufacturing process. As each batch was mixed in a cement-mixer-like drum, a small quantity of oil was added—a closely guarded trade secret. Before this change, the mixture had been difficult to handle, as it stuck together in chunks.
Naming and packaging
In 1896, the first lot of Cracker Jack was produced, the same year the product’s name and tagline “The More You Eat, the More You Want”, were registered. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked: “That’s a crackerjack!” (Crackerjack is a colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality”).
In 1899, Henry Gottlieb Eckstein developed the “waxed sealed package” for freshness, known then as the “Eckstein Triple Proof Package”, a dust-, germ-, and moisture-proof paper package.
1918 Cracker Jack ad, asking readers to enlist in the Navy. Eating Cracker Jack would save valuable sugar and wheat for the war effort.
In 1902, the company was reorganized as Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein. In 1907, the release of the song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, written by the lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert Von Tilzer, gave Cracker Jack free publicity, with its line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!”
In 1922, the name of the Chicago company was changed to The Cracker Jack Company.
Cracker Jack is known for being commonly sold at baseball games and is mentioned in the American standard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
Each July from 1982 to 1985, Cracker Jack sponsored an Old-Timers Classic game featuring former MLB players, held at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
On June 16, 1993, the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack was celebrated at Wrigley Field during the game between the Cubs and the expansion Florida Marlins. Before the game, Sailor Jack, the company’s mascot, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In 2004, the New York Yankees baseball team replaced Cracker Jack with the milder, sweet butter toffee-flavored Crunch ‘n Munch at home games. After public outcry, the club switched back to Cracker Jack.
Toys and prizes
Cracker Jack originally included a small “mystery” novelty item referred to as a “Toy Surprise” in each box. The tagline for Cracker Jack was originally “Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize”, but has since become “Caramel-coated popcorn & peanuts” under Frito-Lay.
Prizes were included in every box of Cracker Jack beginning in 1912. One of the first prizes was in 1914, when the company produced the first of two Cracker Jack baseball card issues, which featured players from both major leagues as well as players from the short-lived Federal League. Early “toy surprises” included rings, plastic figurines, booklets, stickers, temporary tattoos, and decoder rings. Books have been written cataloging the prizes, and a substantial collector’s market exists.
Until 1937, Cracker Jack toy prizes were made in Japan. They were designed by Carey Cloud from 1938. Many metal toys were also made by TootsieToy, who also made Monopoly game markers. During World War II, the prizes were made of paper.
In the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the lead couple goes to Tiffany & Co. where they have a ring from a box of Cracker Jack engraved.
The prizes attained pop-culture status with the phrase “came in a Cracker Jack box” or metaphorical comparisons to a “Cracker Jack prize”, particularly when applied sarcastically to engagement and wedding rings of dubious investment value. The Jim Steinman song “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” (best known as a 1978 recording by Meat Loaf) includes the lyric “there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”.
Under Frito-Lay, toy and trinket prizes were replaced with paper prizes displaying riddles and jokes, then temporary tattoos. In 2013, some prizes became codes for people to play “nostalgic” games on the Cracker Jack app through Google Play for Android-powered devices.The announcement was made in 2016 that these gameplays would replace tangible prizes (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
(From a Cracker Jack box): Why do sharks only swim in salt water?
Because pepper water makes them sneeze!
Second, a Song:
Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and actor who is generally viewed as one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold an estimated 150 million records worldwide.
Born to Italian immigrants in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra was greatly influenced by the intimate, easy-listening vocal style of Bing Crosby and began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the “bobby soxers”. Sinatra released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. However, by the early 1950s, his film career had stalled and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of the film From Here to Eternity, his performance subsequently earning him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra then released several critically lauded albums, some of which are retrospectively noted as being among the first “concept albums”, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958), No One Cares (1959), and Nice ‘n’ Easy (1960).
Sinatra left Capitol in 1960 to start his own record label, Reprise Records, and released a string of successful albums. In 1965, he recorded the retrospective album September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. After releasing Sinatra at the Sands, recorded at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas with frequent collaborator Count Basie in early 1966, the following year he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was followed by 1968’s Francis A. & Edward K. with Duke Ellington. Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971, but came out of retirement two years later. He recorded several albums and resumed performing at Caesars Palace, and released “New York, New York” in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally until shortly before his death in 1998.
Sinatra forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, he starred in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He appeared in various musicals such as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957), winning another Golden Globe for the latter. Toward the end of his career, he frequently played detectives, including the title character in Tony Rome (1967). Sinatra would later receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1971. On television, The Frank Sinatra Show began on ABC in 1950, and he continued to make appearances on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra was also heavily involved with politics from the mid-1940s, and actively campaigned for presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. He was investigated by the FBI for his alleged relationship with the Mafia.
While Sinatra never learned how to read music, he worked very hard from a young age to improve his abilities in all aspects of music. A perfectionist, renowned for his dress sense and performing presence, he always insisted on recording live with his band. His bright blue eyes earned him the popular nickname “Ol’ Blue Eyes”. He led a colorful personal life, and was often involved in turbulent affairs with women, such as with his second wife Ava Gardner. He later married Mia Farrow in 1966 and Barbara Marx in 1976. Sinatra had several violent confrontations, usually with journalists he felt had crossed him, or work bosses with whom he had disagreements. He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was included in Time magazine’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people. After Sinatra’s death, American music critic Robert Christgau called him “the greatest singer of the 20th century”, and he continues to be seen as an iconic figure.
Eugene Curran Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996) was an American actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likable characters that he played on screen. He starred in, choreographed, or co-directed some of the most well-regarded musical films of the 1940s and 1950s.
Kelly is best known today for his performances in films such as Cover Girl (1944); Anchors Aweigh (1945), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor; On the Town (1949), which was his directorial debut; An American in Paris (1951); Singin’ in the Rain (1952); Brigadoon (1954); and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). Kelly made his film debut with Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal (1942), and followed by Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), Thousands Cheer (1943), The Pirate (1948), Summer Stock (1950), and Les Girls (1957) among others. After musicals he starred in two films outside the musical genre: Inherit the Wind (1960) and What a Way to Go! (1964). In 1967, he appeared in French director Jacques Demy’s musical comedy The Young Girls of Rochefort opposite Catherine Deneuve. Kelly solo directed the comedy A Guide for the Married Man (1967) starring Walter Matthau, and later the extravagant musical Hello, Dolly! (1969) starring Barbra Streisand, recognized with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Kelly co-hosted and appeared in Ziegfeld Follies (1946), That’s Entertainment! (1974), That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976), That’s Dancing! (1985), and That’s Entertainment, Part III (1994).
His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical, and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences. Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements; the same year, An American in Paris won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He later received lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors (1982) and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute. In 1999, the American Film Institute also ranked him as the 15th greatest male screen legend of Classic Hollywood Cinema (per Wikipedia).
From Golden Hollywood Fan and YouTube.com, here are Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly performing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Mrs. Threadgoode pulled something out of the Cracker Jack box and all of a sudden her eyes lit up. “Oh Evelyn, look! Here’s my prize. It’s a little miniature chicken… just what I like!” and she held it out for her friend to see.” ― Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
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Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky