We're often asked by guests and visitors to this website about the history of animal crackers. So our staff decided to write up this brief summary on the subject. We gathered the information from as many different sources as we could find, however if you notice that we missed a fun fact or two, then please feel free to drop us an email, and we will make any additions that are necessary. The article does heavily focus on the history of the cracker within the United States and Europe, as we were unable to locate any other historical references to the crackers from other parts of the world. I don't know with absolutely certainty that the crackers were not created elsewhere at an earlier time, although it doesn't appear to have been the case. We do appreciate you checking out this article, and hope that you will take the time to browse around our enormous and always growing animal crackers recipe database.
The first country known to have produced animal crackers, was England. They first invented them in the late nineteenth century, and originally they were called animal shaped biscuits, or simply animals. Shortly after they were created they were imported to the larger United States market, where they were an instant success. Quickly the demand for animal crackers grew to such a degree, that local bakers had to produce their own animal crackers just to fill the demand. From that point on more and more domestic companies jumped into the animal cracker business, and eventually imports made up only a small percentage of the overall market share. Stauffer’s Biscuit Company was one of the original companies to jump into the business, and they produced their first shipment of the crackers in 1871, out of York Pennsylvania. Stauffer’s Biscuit Company still produces animal crackers to this day, and the current recipe is pretty much the same as it always was.
Eventually other American companies would begin producing animal crackers, such as the St. Louis based Dozier-Weyl Cracker Company, and the New York City based Holmes and Coutts Company. These two companies would go on to form the National Biscuit Company, which today makes up the world renown Nabisco brands. This 1902 based alliance known as the National Biscuit Company, would eventually develop a circus theme brand of animal crackers that they would call Barnum's Animals. The iconic box that they still sell the crackers in today, was originally a limited edition Christmas special, with the string on the box intended so that it could be hung from a Christmas tree. At their release, Barnum's Animal Crackers sold for five cents per carton, whereas other companies had been selling them in bulk. Children would head on up to the local corner store, and buy the Barnum's brand crackers one box or carton at a time.
Barnum's would eventually become the dominant animal cracker brand, and for two reasons. First the crackers tasted more like a cookie, having more sugar and flavor then the traditional animal biscuits sold by their competitors. The second reason was the cracker shapes that Barnum's featured, were very easy to identify, and well defined. In 1948 the company changed it's official brand name from Barnum's Animals, to Barnum's Animal Crackers, which obviously set the global standard for animal crackers, shifting the tradition away from the typical biscuit. Then in 1958, Barnum's increased the cracker detail and design, making them even more identifiable, and thus more marketable to children. Today the company is based out of Fair Lawn New Jersey as it always was, and they produce roughly twelve thousand animal crackers per minute. If you haven't tried Barnum's Animal Crackers, then buy a box.