Abstract: From Rueckheim to Schnering: Subsuming German Cultural Identities into All-American Marketing Images

Samantha Chmelik

Abstract

At the end of the nineteenth century, Frederick Rueckheim, the founder of the Cracker Jack Company, embraced his German heritage and openly displayed a portrait of German Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg in his office—an action that resulted in a Secret Service investigation in 1918. By 1922, Rueckheim had changed his company name from Rueckheim Brothers & Eckstein to the Cracker Jack Company and introduced the Sailor Jack logo. During the same timeframe, Otto Schnering, the inventor of the Baby Ruth candy bar, masked his German heritage and embraced "American" culture in his business practices. He claimed to have named the Baby Ruth candy bar after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, and he used his mother's maiden name, Curtiss, for his candy company. Why was it necessary for both the older and newer candy companies to mask their German heritage? Chicago's population was 25 to 30 percent German in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chicago's Germans had survived anti-German sentiments aroused by the 1886 Haymarket Affair. World War I and the American government's commitment to propaganda proved mighty. For German confection entrepreneurs to survive and to transition into national manufacturers, their German identities had to be subsumed into "all-American" marketing images.