Animal Crackers Box on a Christmas Tree

The practice of placing a box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers on a Christmas tree began in 1902. That was when a string was added to the Barnum’s Animals box for the Christmas season so that they could hang on a Christmas tree branch as a decorative ornament. Other ornaments at the turn of the century were made of paper and glass, as well as popcorn and gilded pine cone garlands.

Animal-shaped cookies called “Animals” were originally imported to America from England. Yet England had animal-shaped crackers or cookies going back in the 1700s. By the 1800s , American bakers began to produce them here for public sale. Several American companies eventually joined together to create the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). The animal crackers or cookies were mostly sold in large tin cans.

The National Biscuit Company made and distributed these Animal Biscuit Crackers, which officially became Barnum’s Animals in 1902, adopting the circus theme from Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. That was the same year Nabisco had the idea of marketing them at the Christmas season with a colorful box and string to hang so the box could be hung on a Christmas tree.

These small cartons, which retailed for 5 cents in 1902, were a big hit, and the price dropped to 4 cents for a box in 1923. They continued selling for decades, even during other months of the year, always a big seller. In 1948, the company changed the product name to its current designation of “Barnum’s Animals Crackers”. Nabisco also improved its machines for making the animal crackers producing more details for each animal.

Over the years 53 different animals have been represented by animal crackers. Each box package contains 22 cookies consisting of a variety of animals. Those bright circus boxes are produced in three colors—red, blue, and yellow—with a different variety of animals on each.

All these years later, the box, largely unchanged, with its string, is still around 118 years later. How about starting the tradition this year in your household??

Photos: Animal Crackers Box on Christmas Tree; Display of the variety of animals and 1902 Animal Crackers Box with string.

Related Blogs:

Heritage Ornaments

Christmas Cultural Customs

Silhouettes for the Christmas Tree

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