Posts Tagged With: Barnum’s Animals

108/365: National Animal Crackers Day

It’s a real zoo around here today. We’re busy celebrating National Animal Crackers Day!

Animal crackers were first developed in England in the late 19th century. They were called animal biscuits, or simply “animals.” When they were imported to the United States they became an instant success. People couldn’t get enough of the sweet and crunchy elephants, giraffes, and manatees, so in order to fill the demand Stauffer’s Biscuit Company in Pennsylvania began making their own version right around the turn of the century. In 1902 the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) introduced “Barnum’s Animals,” animal crackers sold in a colorful train-themed box decorated with pictures of circus animals. They attached a string so the box could be used as a Christmas ornament and hung on the tree. Prior to that, crackers were usually sold in bulk or in large tins. The box, which sold for a nickel, became a huge hit, and is still manufactured today. (Sadly, it does not still sell for a nickel).

Originally, the animals were stamped out of a sheet of dough with a cutter, and had little detail. In 1948 Nabisco began using a rotary die cutter, allowing bakers to add detail to each cracker. Meaning, if they ever come out with a great white shark cracker, you’ll see the gleam of malevolent evil in its eye and the sharp razor points of each individual tooth. Come to think of it, that might be too scary for kids! But the animals do change over the years. Since 1902, there have been 54 different animals featured on the crackers. The newest addition, the koala bear, was added in 2002. Each box contains 22 crackers of a different variety, and part of the fun is the fact that you never know what you’re going to get, much like when you buy a pack of baseball cards or pick a hooker at random from the phone book.

I had a nice variety of animals in my box, including a camel, hippo, giraffe, lion, rhino, buffalo, a monkey eating a banana (great detail, thanks to those die cutters!), and – yes!! A koala bear!!

Best of all, they were every bit as good as I remembered.

Animal Crackers

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