1893 – Fritz and Louis Rueckheim produce Cracker Jacks for the Chicago World’s Fair.
1896 – Their confectionary product is officially dubbed “Cracker Jack.”
1990s – Cracker Jack prizes begin to really suck.
2009 – Paper Cracker Jack prizes are nothing more than a tragic reminder of their former glory.
By the early 1980s (my childhood), perhaps the finest Cracker Jack prizes were the vegetable dye tattoos that came in booklets of eight – slap on your arm and lick the backing, wait five minutes. And among the tattoos, the skull and crossbones or the pirate ship were the coolest. If tattoos came in your box, it was a sign of good fortune and the God of Prizes had smiled upon you that day.
As something of a personal nostalgia crusade, I was able to track down original Cracker Jack tattoos through an online vendor – Geri at Silversnow Antiques has a good selection of prizes and she was generous with helping me find the skull and crossbones and pirate ship tattoos. Geri rocks.
I recently made the commitment:
I got real tattoos of the Cracker Jack tattoos of my youth. Staircase Tattoo in Santa Cruz, CA – ‘Tiki’ Tim did a fine job of matching the vegetable dye colors and offsetting the colors just like the originals.
My tattoos: still fresh, sore, and crusty.