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April 18th – Animal Cracker Day

Ahhhhhh, animal crackers, the crispy cookie shaped like various animals, neatly packaged into a small red box that resembles a circus train.  What?  They still make those little boxes with the shoestring handle?  Yes they do.  Coming from a family of 7 kids, this was an inexpensive treat mom would bring when she would do the grocery shopping.  We marched them, we traded them and then CRUNCH, they became extinct.  So what is the deal with these things?  Where did they begin?

In the late 19th century, animal-shaped cookies (or biscuits” in British terminology) called “Animals” were imported from England to the United States. The demand for these crackers grew to the point that bakers began to produce them domestically.  In total, 54 different animals have been represented by animal crackers since 1902.

Nabisco makes Barnum’s Animal Crackers, arguably the most famous commercially produced version of the snack, due to the distinctive package art of a circus cage on wheels and full of animals. “Barnum” refers to the famous showman and circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum. The product actually says “Barnum’s Animals”, subtitled “Crackers”. At one time, the imprinted “wheels” bent around the bottom of the box and the box’s bottom were perforated to allow the wheels to be opened up straight and thus stand the box on its “wheels”.  Many different varieties these days, original flavor, chocolate (as seen pictured) and even frosted.  When I’m in the supermarket, I usually grab a box for nostalgic reasons.

Photo by Chip Douglas

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