FOOD HISTORY: Animal Crackers

While animal shaped crackers/ cookies have existed for many generations, they first were introduced from England into the United States in the 1800's where they became popular, instantly.Many small, local bakeries made their own version of "animal" or "circus" crackers. One of these, the Stauffer Bisquit Company of York, Pennsylvania, one of the first to jump into the business, produced their first shipment in 1871 and, even today, still produce animal crackers using a recipe little changed from the original. However, the modern product that we know of as "Animal Crackers'" came into being when two independent baking companies, the St. Louis, MO based Dozier - Weyl Cracker Co. and the New York based Holmes and Coutts Company merged to form the National Bisquit Co., now known as Nabisco. They developed a a "Circus" theme brand of animal crackers known as "Barnum's Animals" named after the most famous American "showman" and circus producer of the time, P.T. Barnum. The special, rectangular cardboard box, which  contained a variety of animal shaped crackers, was decorated as a circus wagon and was originally designed as a Christmas special and  had a string attached so the the box could be placed on a Christmas tree as  an ornament. Further, this was the first time that animal crackers were sold in a box rather than a tin container or, as bulk, in a "cracker barrel". Over the years, both  the number and variety of animals contained in the Nabisco "Circus Wagon" have changed but have always remained popular.The Nabasco brand of animal cracker is the largest selling; 40 million boxes sold each year in the United States and 17 other countries, world wide. However, in the United States, Stauffers, the original US commercial animal cracker bakery and the Austin division of the  Keebler Co. produce animal crackers, as the Cadbury Great Britian and the Bahlsen Co. in Gremany.