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Animal crackers are simply crackers that are shaped like animals. There is a long-lasting, friendly debate about whether animal crackers are crackers or cookies. Because they are baked using layered dough, they could be considered crackers. But because they are made with sweetened dough, they have the taste and the consistency of a cookie.
Animal crackers have a long and interesting history. They were introduced to Americans in the 1800s as “Animals,” which were fancy, animal-shaped cookies that came over from England. The popularity of these “wild” treats was such that small, neighborhood bakeries began creating their own versions of the cookie to meet the demands of their customers.
As the 19th century ended, bakeries in the United States began merging into much bigger companies with larger distribution areas. One of the most successful mergers was the National Biscuit Company, which was later called Nabisco. In 1902, the National Biscuit Company launched their own version of “Animals,” which they called “Barnum’s Animals” after P. T. Barnum, the famous circus owner and showman.
Looking for a special Christmas promotion, Nabisco executives came up with the idea of specially designed red and green boxes with a circus theme. Thinking these boxes would make wonderful Christmas tree ornaments, they added a little string to make it easier to hang the boxes on branches. Perhaps because animal crackers were then being sold in bulk out of a barrel, Nabisco’s small cartons of cookies were an instant hit. Nabisco’s animal crackers are the most famous of the commercially produced animal crackers and are still being sold today.
The Keebler Company makes a version of animal crackers, but it has never been as popular as Nabisco’s line. Cadburys has a line of chocolate-covered animal crackers and Bordon produced their own line of animal crackers until the late 1970s. Kinnikinnick Foods, Inc. offers a gluten-free animal cookie called KinniKritters that looks and tastes very similar to Nabisco’s animal crackers.
The Stauffer Biscuit Company in York, Pennsylvania, first made their version of animal crackers in the late 1800s. This company uses mace and nutmeg in their dough to give their basic animal crackers a slightly different taste and look from their competitor’s versions. They also offer animal cracker varieties such as cinnamon graham, chocolate graham, cotton candy, and iced flavors. The Stauffer Biscuit Company also offers a line of animal cracker "breakfast cookies" that are made with oats, cranberries, almonds, and pomegranate.
Animal Crackers have been such a mainstay in America that there are many references to them in popular culture. Poet Christopher Morley wrote a poem in their honor, which begins with Animal crackers and cocoa to drink, That is the finest of suppers I think. Animal Crackers was also the name of the Marx Brothers popular 1928 musical and its 1930 film adaptation. The most popular animal crackers reference, however, is undoubtedly from the Shirley Temple film Curleytop when the mop-headed darling sang, "Animal crackers in my soup, Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop. "
I have similar memories of animal crackers Talentryto. I think they were a part of everyone's childhood.
This article brings back many great childhood memories for me. My father used to bring Barnum's animal crackers to my brother and me all the time. It's interesting to learn the history on them.
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