Holiday animal crackers — in the classic box with the string handle and a holiday polar bear cub and mama in a snow globe on a starry blue background – can probably be found in your local market. What kid (and some adults) wouldn’t want to grab a box or two! But is there a polar bear on the inside, too?
A Bit Or Two About Those Little “Crackers”
Animal crackers, those easy to pop into your mouth crackers (cookies) in the shape of zoo or circus animals, are made from a layered dough– the way biscuits are made — but are sweet like cookies. The classic ones are light colored, slightly sweet, and crunchy – but some companies make frosted or chocolate flavored kinds, too.
Biscuits called “Animals” arrived on American shores from England in the late 19th century. Around the start of the 20th century, domestic bakeries, predecessors of the National Biscuit Company, now called “Nabisco Brands,” started producing “Barnum’s Animals” which looked like the circus animals found in the Barnum and Bailey circus.
Originally the package looked like a circus cage on wheels and full of animals. Perforated paper wheels used to continue under the bottom of the box and could be opened up allowing the circus cage box to stand on its wheels.
The little box with the string that we know and love – and can still buy (although without the perforated wheels) — was designed for the 1902 Christmas season – and sold for five cents. The string was for hanging the box from Christmas tree. Obviously a design that was a home run, although now sold for about two bucks a box.
Is There Circus In The Box?
In 1948, the name of the cookies officially became “Barnum’s Animal Crackers” although the animals have changed over the years. There have been 54 different animals – but not all of them play together in the same box.
Today, each package has 22 crackers and a toss up of animals. Lions, tigers, bears, and elephants will probably always be a part of the menagerie – but dogs and jaguars have yielded to hyenas and gorillas. I expected to find a whole bunch of polar bears in my holiday box with the polar bear on the front, but the winter white animal was nowhere to be found. Here’s a selection of what I did find.
More than 40 million bright red, yellow, or blue circus boxes, each with a variety of animals, are sold each year in the United States and abroad. An animal cracker takes about four minutes to bake and 15,000 cartons and 300,000 crackers are made each shift – which uses up about thirty miles of string for the packages, or nearly 8,000 miles of string a year.
Although the circus box has gone through updates and changes over the years, it remains bright, colorful and fun. There have been three different and limited edition boxes produced in the last decade, still the same shape and size, but with a different design on the outside of the box.