by Veikko Suikkanen
John Glenn became the first U. S. astronaut to orbit the earth this day in 1962.
A prize is inserted into a Cracker Jack box for the first time this date in 1913. It is well-known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack consisting of molasses-flavored caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, first produced in 1896. Some historians consider it the first junk food. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked: “That’s a crackerjack!” (a colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality”).
A German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim sold popcorn in Chicago beginning in 1871 using steam equipment. He eventually developed the present popular popcorn confection. The Cracker Jack mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were introduced in 1916. Jack was modeled after his grandson, who died at age eight shortly after his image appeared. Bingo was based on a real-life dog, a stray adopted in 1917, who died of old age in 1930.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a song released in 1908 with the line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” brought a lot of free publicity to the product. In 1922, the name of the Chicago company was changed to The Cracker Jack Company. The brand was bought by Borden in 1964, then Frito-Lay since 1997. (from Wikipedia and Cute Calendar.com)
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published this date in 1885. He originally appeared in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876.
The character of Huck Finn is based on Tom Blankenship, the real-life son of a sawmill laborer and some time drunkard named Woodson Blankenship, who lived in a “ramshackle” house near the Mississippi River behind the house where the author grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. The father of Huck, called “Pap” Finn, may be based on Jimmy Finn, a full-blown alcoholic who lived on the streets, and it is only through Twain’s remembrances that Woodson is characterized as a drunkard. Twain left Hannibal and his boyhood at an early age and his memories of these people are colored by what he could have known and understood at the time, as a boy of less than 14 years old. Twain’s friend Tom Blankenship didn’t attend school because there were no public schools at the time, and his family was too poor to send him to a private school. Left at loose ends in a busy household with six sisters and lacking a mother who seems to have died when he was young, this Tom was indeed “at liberty” most of the time.
Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn in his autobiography: “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquil and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – (from Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Wikipedia)
–Mark Twain is the pseudonym of Samuel Clemons.
Nylon was patented this day in 1937, but would not become popular for a few more decades.