The “cracker barrel” (or “cracker-barrel”) is a barrel containing crackers. “York Biscuit and Crackers in barrels and kegs” was printed in The Connecticut Courant (Hartford, CT) on May 6, 1793. “Three or four Indians had clubs, hammering away on both sides of an empty cracker barrel with both of the heads out” was printed in the White Cloud Kansas Chief (White Cloud, KS) on August 11, 1859.
The cracker barrel served as a convenient seat/table for those conversing (often in local gossip and storytelling) at a general store. The terms “cracker barrel humor/humorist” and “cracker barrel philosopher/philosophy” have been used to describe homespun, folk humor and conversation.
“Among others, he was lifted to the cracker-barrel rostrum, and made to deliver a speech” was printed in the Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot on October 28, 1871. “Orators of the herring box and cracker barrel rostrum in the village trade emporiums” was printed in the Springfield (VT) Reporter on November 15, 1889.
“The speech-makers and the cracker-barrel philosophers” was printed in the Washington (DC) Post on May 17, 1886. “He strolled down into the village among the cracker barrel philosophers at the corner grocery” was printed in the Washington (DC) Evening Times on February 1, 1897. “CRACKER BARREL PHILOSOPHY” was printed in the New-York (NY) Daily Tribune on February 15, 1906.
“CRACKER BARREL HUMOR. (At .he Country Store.)” was printed in the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE) on November 18, 1894. “Cracker-barrel humorists” was printed in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on January 23, 1913.
crack·er–bar·rel adj \-?ba-r?l\
Definition of CRACKER-BARREL
: suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store “a cracker–barrel philosopher”
Origin of CRACKER-BARREL
from the cracker barrel in country stores around which customers lounged for informal conversation
First Known Use: 1916
(Oxford English Dictionary)
A barrel containing crackers; used attrib. of a plain or unsophisticated outlook or point of view, or of a person with such a view or views.
1877 Harper’s Mag. Mar. 603/1 Down at the farther end of the room turning fragments out of a cracker barrel.
1905 Springfield (Mass.) Weekly Republican 15 Sept. 12 Dr. Hall?is not above sitting on a cracker barrel in a country grocery for a chat with old acquaintances.
1919 E. E. Cummings Let. 25 Aug. (1969) 61 In order that you may not sit on a cracker-barrel playing whist.
1933 J. T. Flynn God’s Gold i. ii. 37 Politics, rum, riches, and religion—these were the favorite topics of American cracker-barrel debaters.
1938 Time 31 Oct. 26/3 On the air and in print the Burns character is that of a cracker-barrel philosopher.
6 May 1793, The Connecticut Courant (Hartford, CT), pg. 4, col. 2:
York Biscuit and Crackers in barrels and kegs.
11 August 1859, White Cloud Kansas Chief (White Cloud, KS), “Indian ‘Shin-Dig,’” pg. 2, col. 3:
Three or four Indians had clubs, hammering away on both sides of an empty cracker barrel with both of the heads out.
22 December 1859, Roseburg (OR) Express, “Reminiscences,” pg. 4, col. 2:
... and in falling knocked the legs from under the supper table (a cracker barrel) spilling the contents on the floor; ...
28 October 1871, Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot, “General Lee’s Lecture Yesterday Evening,” pg. 6:
Among others, he was lifted to the cracker-barrel rostrum, and made to deliver a speech.
Google News Archive
23 March 1872, Boston (MA) Daily Evening Transcript, “The Garden and the Farm,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Take a barrel, half-barrel or cracker barrel, and about half way up saw a hole large enough to admit a hen, then make a nest in the bottom part nearly level with the lower part of the hole; your nest is now completed.
21 June 1873, Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Hawaii), “Burleque Modoc Dispatches,” pg. 4:
Colonel Perry fell over a cracker barrel, when the excitement was thinnest, and barked a piece of his shin as big as a quarter.
September 1874, Overland Monthly, “The Sag Harbor Aborigine,” pg. 255, col. 1:
He wants the cracker-barrel close at hand to lunch from, and when the fire wanes he knows it to be his business to replenish it without consulting the proprietor.
7 November 1874, Appletons’ Journal, “Lake Okechobee,” pg. 591, col. 3:
Doubtless there are softer feathers than old boots and bags of shot; but the colonel and myself occupy the bed in the stern, while the doctor and Shores cover, respectively, the thwart and cracker-barrel.
9 June 1876, New York (NY) Commercial Advertiser, pg. 1, col. 4:
“Woman,” said the fat man on the cracker barrel, reflectively, “woman is like a boil.”
March 1877, Harper’s Magazine, “My Great Aunt’s Will,” pg. 603, col. 1:
We keep the post-office, and, by the time I get back to my cracker barrel, in comes a man who wants to know if he hasn’t a letter.
17 May 1886, Washington (DC) Post, “Powderly on the Boycott,” pg. 2, col. 2:
Abstinence is the mother of Competence, and the workmen of this hour who are to become the millionaires of the next generation are not the speech-makers and the cracker-barrel philosophers, but the quiet men who work steadily and always spend a little less than they earn.
15 November 1889, Springfield (VT) Reporter, pg. 1, col. 4:
As the fate of a limited lecture course for the winter was involved in its pecuniary success, it is to be deeply regretted, as in all probability we are now doomed to a long, dreary winter without literary entertainment other than afforded by the newspapers and the questionable mis-information afforded by the orators of the herring box and cracker barrel rostrum in the village trade emporiums.
18 November 1894, Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE), pg. 12, col. 6:
CRACKER BARREL HUMOR.
(At the Country Store.)
A. t> WORDEN.
2 December 1894, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 18, col. 8:
CRACKER BARREL HUMOR.
Some Stories About Dogs that Alarmed the State Driver.
1 February 1897, Washington (DC) Evening Times, pg. 4, col. 3:
He strolled down into the village among the cracker barrel philosophers at the corner grocery.
The Young Man in Modern Life
By Beverley E. Warner
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Co.
Think it over, young man, whether you sit in the seat of the cracker barrel (Pg. 56—ed.) philosopher, or are dodging the drudgery of school and college routine,...
13 March 1905, New York (NY) Evening Tribune, “Alfred’s Machine Shop Reopened,” pg. 8, col. 4:
The information was not gleaned from a “cracker barrel philosopher,” as intimated, nor from any uncertain views which have been promulgated about town.
15 February 1906, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, pg. 6, col. 6:
CRACKER BARREL PHILOSOPHY.
From the Shawnee Herald.
Some farmers around Asher on poor land make more money than other farmers do on good land. One man who came here three years ago with good health and 57 cents now owns 160 acres free from debt, while another who came here with $2,000 in money at the same time is preparing to let a money shark foreclose on his half section and leave the Territory. A cracked barrel philosopher the other day explained the difference by remarking that as a breadwinner a bob-tailed mule always beats a bob-tailed flush.
16 February 1906, The Woodson County Advocate (Yates Center, KS), pg. 3, col. 4:
Cracker Barrel Philosophy.
“Some farmers around Asher on poor land make more money than other farmers do on good land,” says the Shawnee Herald. “One man who came here three years ago with good health and 57 cents now owns 160 acres free from debt, while another who came here with $2,000 in money at the same time is preparing to let a money shark foreclose on his half section and leave the Territory. A cracker barrel philosopher the other day explained the difference by remarking that as a breadwinner a bob-tailed mule always beats a bob-tailed flush.”—K. C. Journal.
21 December 1907, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “New Books of the Season,” pg. 4:
You will remember Abe Martin. he is the personal representative in Indiana of the humor trust—the cracker-barrel philosopher and cynic.
19 January 1908, Seattle (WA) Daily Times, pg. 31, col. 2:
“Abe Martin’s Almanack for 1908.” By Kin Hubbard. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis.
The best comic almanac since the days of Nast and Josh Billings. Abe Martin, the cracker-barrel philosopher, sets down here his most original comments on life, his neighbors and the weather.
23 January 1913, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, Picture and Sporting Section, pg. 3, col. 1:
BROOKLYN, in the winter of 1884-85, was for a long time the most conspicuous baseball center in the United States, and the cracker-barrel humorists in Manhattan had to take Flatbush and its environs most seriously.
October 1927, The North American Review, pp. 457-460:
The Cracker Barrel Philosophers
By Burges Johnson
Bene?t’s Reader’s Encyclopedia
New York, NY: Harper & Row
cracker-barrel humor A genre of American folk humor that originated in New England general stores, where the cracker barrel provided a convenient seat for rustic wits. Cracker-barrel humorists were known as cracker-barrel philosophers. Originally storytelling and gossip, cracker-barrel humor grew to mean shrewd, homely, Yankee wit, and finally American folk humor in general.