Nautical Jack

I viewed a repeat episode of American Pickers awhile ago where they stumbled across a Cracker Jack vending machine. It set my brain cogs into motion (backwards) revisiting our famous Crackajack mouth organs sold by Allan’s of Melbourne.

The cogs clunked to a stop on both why the name Crackajack and why advertising featuring the face of sailor Jack (pictured below)?

Sometime ago I had established that F A Rauner was the manufacturer of both the Cracker Jack and ‘our’ (Melbourne, Australia) Crackajack mouth organ. This came about on the basis of F A Rauner’s World Master cover plate being of the same design as the 1926 Crackajack Junior, Senior and Artist models. The evidence that finally clinched this revelation was a Crackajack box sticker that appeared in John Whiteman’s book Harmonica Box Labels, which had the registration number of 28285 – the same trademark number for F A Rauner’s Cracker Jack of 1897. For further information refer to article 28285.

Photograph courtesy of Doug Dawson

Initially I reviewed the Cracker Jack of the confectionary kind and investigated how their name and sailor boy Jack was derived. Could they be related in someway? The prototype sticky molasses popcorn and peanut mixture first appeared at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The famous mixture was an invention of German brothers Lewis and Frederick William Rueckheim (they had immigrated to Chicago in 1872). But it is claimed the name originated from a sales employee that exclaimed, “that’s a Cracker Jack!” when tasting a refined (less sticky) mixture in 1896. A frequently used phrase of the time used to express how something was bloody good (Aussie translation). The name would be trademarked in the same year. The company would later design a box that would hold a single serving. Coupons for prizes were added in 1910 and, in a couple of years, toys were placed in the packaging. Cracker Jacks’ notoriety headed north when Jack Norworth included them in his lyrics to Take me out to the ball game.

The box’s graphic consisted of a sailor boy and his dog which had been around as early as 1916, but wasn’t trademarked until 1918. The subject for sailor boy Jack was Robert Muno Rueckheim, Frederick’s grandson. Robert sadly passed away aged only seven from pneumonia in 1920. The dog on Jack’s leash in the graphic is Bingo, who was modelled on a stray canine named Russell that belonged to employee Henry Eckstein. Henry had become a co-owner of the firm after he developed the wax sealed single serve packaging in 1902.

The early toys found within the packaging are extremely popular with collectors who have formed their own association. But these toys are not the most expensive Cracker Jack collectables. That honour belongs to baseball player cards from the 1914-1915 series – they go for an arm and a leg. There appears to be no connection with Rauner’s mouth organs of around the same time (TM 1897) however, you could find a mini, two holed wooden mouth organ within the packaging.

Next I examined the name “Jack” and how it was connected to sailors? The etymology of the name “Jack” goes back to the 14th century where it first appeared in a narrative poem titled Piers Plowman, whose penmanship was credited to William Langland. Early on it was applied generally as a name for a peasant. Your everyday common seaman (Merchant and Navy) would later be referred to as a Jack Tar. Then there were phrases like “every man Jack,” and “Jack of all trades, master of none” – all referencing a lower mortal being.

(The Sunday Times, July 15, 1917)

The ‘Tar’ of Jack Tar may have its derivations from the seventeenth century word “tarpaulin”, where canvas was coated with tar to make waterproof clothes – a priority for sailors. The waterproof sailors hat was even known as a “tarpaulin.”

Okay, what then of F A Rauner of Klingenthal and their Cracker Jack range? The company began production of mouth organs in 1864 and the name Cracker Jack was trademarked in 1897. In their catalogue of 1905 they promoted the Cracker Jack line with “World Renowned” and stamped on the cover plate was “The Harp Of World Repute”. In the same catalogue they offered mouth organs named: The Navy, The Navy Band and The Admiral. Any association with the Armed Forces was a popular marketing strategy in the branding of harmonicas. There doesn’t appear to be a Sailor Jack or seaman reference in their Cracker Jack range.

Photograph courtesy of Harmonika Museum Trossingen

Well then, what about the Sailor (Cracka) Jack in Australia? Allan & Co. of Melbourne imported and rebranded F A Rauner’s Cracker Jack name to an Aussie (English) spelling variant Crackajack in 1903. There had been a nautical connection in their advertising virtually from when the first three models were sold. A Crackajack Cadet model was added to the original fleet in 1905. Sailor Jack’s boat race (face) first appeared as a graphic on the Crackajack Double mouth organ that hit the stores in 1907. Evidence suggests that the 1907 Crackajack Double image didn’t become a major marketing icon until the mid twenties when a significant upgrade was made to the Crackajack line. This upgrade included the: Artist, Senior, and Junior models that had F A Rauner’s World Master fluted cover plate configuration. His physiognomy was then highly prevalent in all the promotional material produced by Allan’s: signage, booklets, pamphlets, window decals and salesman’s travel boxes.

Sailing (Navy) connection early 1900’s (left) and in 1907 stamped on the Crackajack Double cover plates (right)

F A Rauner’s original Cracker Jack mouth organ was trademarked in Germany on the 19th November 1897 with the registration number 28285. Allan’s of Melbourne trademarked the name Crackajack on the 15th September 1903. Ah, the craic is good.

Here’s a little timeline of Cracker Jack/Crackajack events:

1896 – Frederick & Lewis Rueckheims German (Japenzin) immigrants (1872) to the States trademark their unique popcorn Cracker Jack.

1897 – F A Rauner’s (Klingenthal Germany) Cracker Jack mouth organ Trademarked #28285

1903 – Allan’s of Melbourne import F A Rauner mouth organs and trademark the name Crackajack

1907 – Crackajack Double mouth organ sold in Australia with the graphic of Sailor Jack

1916 – Rueckheim’s popcorn uses Sailor Boy Jack in advertising (TM 1918)

For more on Allan’s Crackajack history click on mouth organ graphic below.

Now to find out who the hell was B C Dunlop and why is he credited with the system? What system? Boomerang mouth organs had an Albert’s system. Well we know where that came from, but what did that mean? Nothing at all! And why? I couldn’t locate any connection with the music emporium Allan’s, nor with any musician. There wasn’t one reference for a B C Dunlop in past papers. Plenty for J B Dunlop of course. Maybe the B C is Before Christ, because they rated J B so highly? His invention of practical pneumatic tyres was pretty influential. Oh! I did find one B C – a Beveridge Colin Dunlop (1879 – 1961) an American politician and businessman of New York! Did he know the Rueckheim boys? Could I be clutching at straws? Probably.


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