Cracker Jack Prizes

Alex Jaramillo, Author Abbeville Press $27.5 (96p) ISBN 978-1-55859-000-7
Nearly as disposable as Cracker Jack prizes themselves, this lavish picture book on toys packaged in the American snack food pays inane homage to a distinctly minor artifact. Invented in the 1870s by Frederick William Rueckheim, a Chicago entrepreneur, the caramelized popcorn product became widely known when it was sold at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition; 1927 saw 137,754,000 boxes sold, and 1948, 240,000,000. Jaramillo, a collector who owns 5000 Cracker Jack prizes, attempts to place them in a historical context, but his efforts are feeble: treating each decade and its prizes in a separate chapter, the author notes the ``frantic diversity'' of the 1910s, when Americans ``became aware of how big and complicated, both for good and ill, the world had become,'' then offers baseball score counter Cracker Jack prizes as dubious evidence of this national mood. ``The First World War changed everything,'' he observes, and Cracker Jack rose to the occasion with paper Indian headdresses. The photographs are appealing, but few readers will find the cultural resonance Jara millo claims in the prizes, let alone benefit from their ``wisdom.'' (June)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
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