The Most Important Question You'll Read Today

Okay, maybe not THE most important. I just bought a package of Cracker Jack Brand “Nothing But Nuts” (Butter Toffee Peanuts - I’m not very impressed).

On the package is the kid with his dog and underneath it says “Sailor Jack & Bingo.” I thought the kids name was Cracker Jack and thus the name of the product. Did this just change (if so I assume it is because of the negative conotation in calling someone a “cracker.” God, I hate this PC shit!)? Or have I just been misinformed all these years?

The kid has been depicted in a sailor suit since 1919 according to information on file with the Patent & Trademark office. So, Sailor Jack seems pretty logical to me.

The product was named, so the story goes, when the inventor of the recipe had a travelling salesman try some. When the salesman had tasted it he said something to the effect of, “That’s really cracker jack,” meaning “tasty snack, bro.”

The peanut and popcorn delicacy was thus named Cracker Jack, and thus it has always been.

Yeah, I know he’s always worn a sailor suit, but I could swear his name was Cracker Jack. Any way to check with the trademark office for the name “Sailor Jack” to see when that came into being?

Borden does not have any trademark registered for the name “Sailor Jack” that I could find. They have a trademark on various representations of the kid and the dog, but they don’t say what their names are in the trade mark as far as I can tell.

If you are interested, hie yourself to your local Patent and Trademark Depository Library and pull out the old volumes to see if there ever was a name attached.

This search could take you anywhere from 5 minutes to about 6 years.

The package makes note of a trademark of both the picture of the kid w/dog and the words “Sailor Jack and Bingo.”

Any law students with free access to WestLaw out there who want to run a quick search? Surely this would qualify as an “educational use.”

You don’t need WestLaw, you can check at

You can access the Trademark database and search to your heart’s contents.

However, if the mark has been changed or has expired, it might not be there. Also, if Borden doesn’t think that the name of the sailor kid is important to the mark, then they won’t bother to name him in the legal description.

Looking for really old marks involves a lot of time going through old Official Gazettes.

However, this guy’s webpage
says that Sailor Jack has been around since 1918. However, he puts a “TM” by Sailor Jack, while elsewhere in the page, he uses the R in a circle. (Sorry, too lazy to find the code.)

That would mean that Sailor Jack is not a Federally registered trademark. It could be registered at the state level or may fall into the category of a “common law” trademark.

Frito Lay’s Cracker Jack History page confirms the 1918 date:

Of course, it’s possible that the name had never been used on packaging until recently, and they are saying, “well, that was always his name, but we just didn’t use it.” I live in Columbus and will check out COSI (Center of Science and Industry) where they have a Cracker Jack exhibit. (Borden is based in Columbus.) I’ll look at some old packaging and prizes and report my findings.

Well, I guess it looks like I was indeed misinformed. Thanks for your help once again in getting the Straight Dope!

Found this on the web:

And in case you wondered where the expression “cracker jack” came from in the first place, this is from Sea Terms: