Let’s celebrate three men resting in Chicago cemeteries that gave us all snack pleasure. The words from the 1908 tune that we all sing at the ball park “buy me some peanuts and crackerjack” says it all!
We start with Charles D. Cretors. Born 11 Dec 1852 and originally from Lebanon, Ohio, Charles eventually made his way to Decatur, Illinois, where he opened a bakery and then a confectionery shop. He purchased a peanut roaster for his shop but redesigned it to work better. He moved to Chicago where he felt he could become a commercial success by selling his new machine. He purchased a street vendors license on December 2, 1885 in order to test his machine driven by a small steam engine . By 1893, Cretors had created a steam powered machine that could roast peanuts as well as popcorn in oil.
Charles Cretors took his new popcorn wagon to the Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and introduced the new corn product to the public. Cretors first gave away samples of his new popcorn product, but soon people lined up to purchase bags of the hot, buttered popcorn. The smell of roasting peanuts and of hot buttered corn being popped in its seasoning was an instant hit.
By 1900, Cretors introduced the Special, the first large horse-drawn popcorn wagon. Electric poppers soon became the choice of power, as steam power had a long reputation for being very dangerous. The most popular wagon was the classic Model “D”
He later added wagons to his product line, built on Ford chassis for outdoor fairs and venues.
As movie theater attendance grew through the 1920s, Cretors began designing machines specifically for the movie theatre audience. Popcorn continued to be very popular through the depression because of its low cost. Popcorn and movies continue to be the perfect marriage.
Since then the company continue to market dozens of great new poppers and features to meet the new needs of theaters, concession stands, and customers.
Charles Cretors died at age 81 in Chicago on 24 Jun 1934 and was buried in Rosehill Cemetery
Next we celebrate Frederick “Fritz” William Rueckheim born September 30 1849 and his brother Louis, both born Germany, .. Fritz first sold popcorn at 113 Fourth Street (renamed Federal). They introduced “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts” at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition
Then his brother and partner Louis Reuckheim
Crackerjack was later registered in 1896. It was one of America’s first junk foods, a molasses flavored, caramel coated mixture of popcorn and peanuts. The product was sold to Borden in 1964 and later owned by Frito-Lay since 1997.
Between about 1912 and 2016 a toy surprise was in every box, including baseball cards, stickers, decoder rings, and more. It is estimated that over 17 billon prizes were produced and included in Crackerjack boxes.
In case you crave a bit of trivia, The sailor is “Sailor Jack” modeled after Frederick’s Grandson Robert Munro Rueckheim. (1913-1920) Robert is buried in St. Henry’s Catholic Cemetery Devon, near Ridge. On Chicago’s far north side. . The dog is “Bingo”, but was modelled after a real stray named “Russell”.
Frederick Rueckheim died January 2 1934. Louis died October 15, 1927. Frederick, his wife Mathilda Mell, his brother Louis Reuckheim, his wife Margaret Hangartner are all buried in Section K within in Oakwood Cemetery on Chicago’s far south side.
Lastly let me leave you with a few snacklike thoughts. . Americans eat more than a billion pounds of popcorn every year. Popcorn is made up of both yellow and white kernels but only about 1 in 10 kernels are white. In the old days, a bag cost 5 cents. Today at an upscale movie theatre you could pay $14.59 for a tub. And don’t eat the “old maids”