I’ve seen both 1871 and 1896 given as Cracker Jack’s birth date, which would make this year its 150th or 125th anniversary. What gives?
The makers of the sugary globs of peanuts and popcorn love any excuse for a party. Previous owner Borden celebrated the centennial three separate times: in 1972, commemorating the creation of F.W. Rueckheim & Bro., the Chicago company that invented Cracker Jack (the recipe was developed the year before); in 1993, to mark the World’s Columbian Exposition, even though there’s no evidence it was sold there; and in 1996, for when it was named. Why so many anniversaries? Marketing, says Hyde Park resident Theresa Richter, president of the Cracker Jack Collectors Association. Big dates lend themselves to splashy campaigns. In 2012, for example, in honor of a hundred years of prizes, current owner Frito-Lay gave out special trinkets, including one that winked at a famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene: a real diamond ring.