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The First Box of Cracker Jacks

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

A particular type of popcorn was starting to find a home on the streets of Chicago during the 1870s. It was being sold by two German immigrants, Frederick and Louis Rueckheim. They were selling different kinds of candies along with the popcorn to the Columbian Exposition that opened in Chicago during 1893.

They managed to coat kernels of popcorn with molasses and peanuts, which they prepared ahead of time in a small factory. The exposition put the two on the map, so to speak, and orders for their confection sky rocketed soon after.

As sales increased, so did the need for a sales team and a proper business entity. Cracker Jacks got their name, supposedly, from one of their early sales people. John Berg tasted the popcorn and exclaimed “That’s crackerjack!” Rueckehim liked the expression and kept it for the candy. At the time, “cracker-jack” was a slang term that meant something along the lines of “first rate” or “excellent.”

The Cracker Jack managed to become a staple of pop culture, thanks in large part to the game of baseball. Albert Von Tilzer, the famous composer, wrote the food into the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It became the world’s best selling confectionary in 1913, thanks in large part to advertising aimed at children. The company announced its greatest milestone in 1970, when it proudly exclaimed that over 24 million households had enjoyed Cracker Jacks.  

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Twitter page.