They were known as Circus crackers, sometimes just simply Animals. Bakeries all over the United States made them. They were copies of crackers that had been imported from England, but late in the 1800’s a number of bakeries merged to form the National Biscuit Company, now known as Nabisco Brands.

IN 1902, the National Biscuit Company introduced Barnum’s Animals during the Christmas season and packaged them in a circus themed box with a string attached.....not to carry, but rather to hang them from your Christmas tree. They were just a nickel and were a big hit.

Over the past 100 years there have been some changes in the number and variety of animals caged in that little box. There have been 54 different animals represented by animal crackers since 1902. There will probably always be lions and tigers, bears and elephants. But the dog and jaguar have been replaced by the hyena and gorilla. Today each package has 22 crackers with a variety of animals. The Koala is the newest addition, voted on by consumers, beating out the penguin, walrus and cobra. The Koala bear joined the 18 other animals in September 2002.

The box has gone through some changes over the years too, but it remains similar to the original -- bright, colorful and fun. There have been three different and limited edition boxes in the last decade, still the same shape and size, but with a different design on the box. Endangered Animals in 1995, the Chocolate Zoo in 1997 and the Marine Collection in 1998.


40-million boxes of Animal Crackers are sold each year and they’re all made in Nabisco’s Fairlawn, New Jersey bakery.