What Was America's First Junk Food?


Quick Answer

There was a time in America's history where snacking between meals was common, but snack foods were not. Brothers Frederick and Louis Rueckheim changed that with the creation of Cracker Jack, the molasses-coated popcorn-and-peanut treat, in 1896.

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Full Answer

One of the most important parts of Cracker Jack's development was finding a way to keep the sticky popcorn pieces from clinging together in large chunks. Once that problem was solved (the solution remains a trade secret), the treat was even more appealing to the masses.

The product gained more popularity once the packaging included a waxed and sealed bag. This innovation from Henry Gottlieb Eckstein ensured that Cracker Jack would stay fresh and not stick to the inside of the box. This surely made the treat easier to consume at baseball games, where people began singing, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!" from "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" in 1908.

Although snacks and junk food have continued to evolve, Cracker Jack is still a popular concession stand item at American ballparks. In fact, it is such a staple that when Yankee Stadium replaced Cracker Jack with Crunch N' Munch in 2004, intense disapproval from fans resulted in a swift return to the classic snack.

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