History of Animal Crackers
Sometimes termed "Circus Crackers,'' other times simply "Animals,'' animal crackers have delighted children for well over a century. In the late 1800s these animal-shaped cookies were imported to the United States from England, answering a demand for fancy baked goods. That demand grew and American bakers began making these "wild" treats at home.
But, it wasn't until 1902 that Barnum's Animal Crackers came into being, evoking the ever popular circus theme.
Later that year, packaging became an important factor. Looking ahead to the holiday season, Nabisco designed a box that looked just like a circus wagon cage and even attached a string so the box could be hung from the Christmas tree. In fact, the package they designed was the first to have such an ingenious string handle. The idea was a success and it was so popular that it became a year-round favorite.
Food historians generally agree the art of crafting small baked goods into fancy shapes began as a Christmas tradition in Medieval Germany. Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was a highly sophisticated art. The legal right to make these products was carefully protected by Guilds. They were sometimes used as Christmas decorations.
By the middle of the 19th century the industrial revolution made it possible for biscuits, cookies and crackers to be manufactured in factories. Crisp biscuits (what we Americans now call cookies) baked in fancy shapes were very popular in Victorian England. Some of these biscuits were shaped like animals. "Zoologicals" (animal crackers) were sold at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia . They were made by Philadelphia baker Walter G. Wilson. According to a recent Washington Post article, in 1889 when P.T. Barnum's circus travelled to England, animal cookies proliferated. Food companies were most likely capitalizing on Barnum's popular entertainment. Animal Crackers manufactured at that time were probably designed as a marketing promotions.
The earliest mention of animal crackers we have in print is this recipe from 1883:
Animals or Menagerie
1 bbl flour, 40 lbs sugar, 16 lard, 12 oz soda, 8 ozs ammonia, 6 3/4 gals milk."
---Secrets of the Bakers and Confectioners' Trade, J. D. Hounihan [self-published:Staunton VA] April 1. 1883 (p. 96)
[NOTE: this is professional cooking text. It does not offer any instructions regarding the shaping of these cookies. The author offers this interesting preface note on p. 89: "The following recipes are from threee of the best workmen in the business. One of them is at New York, another at Philadelphia and the third at Cambridge, Mass. They are all employed in the best bakeries in their respective localities, and I have their sworn affidavit that they are the recipes they are now working with, and the best known to them...I am not at liberty to give the names of the parties I have the recipes from, for reasons best known to myself and the parties"]
"P.T. Barnum, the greatest self-promoter in history, had absolutely nothing to do with the box that bears his name. And never got a cent for it. That's according to our man Fisher of the Barnum Museum. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus still doesn't get a cut, or a licensing fee. This is what happened: In 1889, Barnum decided to do something truly nutty, a tour of England with his circus. So after his buddy Bailey figured out how, exactly, you get a circus that normally takes up 10 rail cars onto a boat and across an ocean, Barnum's animals made their European debut. The English, meanwhile, had already invented something called animal biscuits. Sensing a marketing moment, several companies started manufacturing animal biscuits with circus packaging and called them Barnum's. Soon the product migrated across the ocean, where Nabisco's forerunner, the National Biscuit Co., put them on U.S. store shelves in 1902. Originally called "Barnum's Animals,'' they became Barnum's "Animal Crackers'' in 1948." ---"Circus food," Jennifer Frey, Washington Post, March 20, 2002
18 December 1878, Washington Post, pg. 4 ad:
Animal Crackers, Boston Oat Meal and Graham Crackers.
FOR SALE AT REDUCED PRICES BY
J. B. BRYAN & BRO.,
98 Pennsylvania avenue
25 April 1883, Perry (Iowa) Pilot, pg. 7, col. 2:
At intervals, along the table, were plates of animal crackers, standing up to their knees in wine-colored jelly.
26 December 1886, New York Times, "LITTLE JOEY AND HIS CHRISTMAS CANDLES," pg. 3:
On her way back she remembered that Joey had been disappointed at not finding any "animal" crackers in his stockings, and she stepped into a grocery store and bought a little bagful.
10 April 1892, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 3:
Fresh Animal Crackers, 13c lb., 2 for...25c
October 1895, Ladies' Home Journal, pg. 24 ad:
"Filled with animals, tame and wild,
A tasteful luncheon for a child."
The Animal Crackers
put up as above are light and appetizing and just the thing to please the children; grown folks like them, too.
If your grocer does not sell our biscuits, write to:
MARVIN - Pittsburg
24 February 1897, Los Angeles Times, pg. 8 ad:
Animal Cookie cutters, 3 for...10c
Word Mark BARNUM'S ANIMALS CRACKERS NABISCO
Goods and Services IC 030. US 046. G & S: CRACKERS.
FIRST USE: 19200000.
FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19200000 Mark Drawing Code (3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS Design Search Code 070110 180103 190709 261112 261113 261120 Serial Number 72419544 Filing Date March 27, 1972 Current Filing Basis 1A Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0961041
Registration Date June 12, 1973
Owner (REGISTRANT) NABISCO, INC. CORPORATION NEW JERSEY 7 CAMPUS DRIVE PARSIPPANY NEW JERSEY 070540311 (LAST LISTED OWNER) KRAFT FOODS HOLDINGS, INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE THREE LAKES DRIVE NORTHFIELD ILLINOIS 60093
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED Prior Registrations 0037299;0589287;0900286;AND OTHERS
Disclaimer APPLICANT DISCLAIMS THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE WORD "CRACKER" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN.
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20040114.
Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 20040114
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