Material History of American Religion Project

Cracker Jack bible

Cracker Jack bible prize

Since 1893 Cracker Jack has been an inescapable part of American culture. The crunchy, sticky snack has played a key role in baseball games and childhoods for over a century. Besides the peanuts and the popcorn and the rest, each box has included a prize of some sort-a small plastic toy that could be as easily swallowed as discovered. For some folks the prize may be more important than the snack itself. (For proof, check out the Cracker Jack Collectors Association.) Cracker Jack--and its toys--are beside hot dogs and apple pie on the Americana menu.

So is Christianity and its Bible, which is what makes this object so important-and so much fun. In the mid 1960s Priscilla White, who now lives in Wheaton, Illinois, found this miniature plastic Bible in a box of Cracker Jack. It's formed of black plastic, and measures 3/4 of an inch by 1/2 of an inch by 3/8 of an inch. It was made in Hong Kong.

There's a small lens in the bottom the prize-winner can look through. It's the kind of device through which, in the past, more ribald young men would find a picture of a naked woman. In this case, though, you find the Lord's Prayer, from Matthew 6 (the King James translation): "Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen."

Clearly the Bible is even more inescapable than Cracker Jack. Given the existence of things like Bible gum, the Bible prize shouldn't be surprising. But Cracker Jack is a product aimed at a mass market, not a narrow evangelical Christian audience like the gum. Not only is this a Bible, but the text is distinctively Christian, surprising in an era where Judaism was increasingly included in the "triple melting pot." Was the Cracker Jack prize department looking to do evangelism? Or did they just assume that the Bible and its text would be a valuable text to whatever child discovered it, no matter his or her faith?

The prize was lent to the project by Ms. White.

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