The precursor to the modern-day saltine cracker was something known as soda crackers or saltina crackers. These crackers were comparable in size and shape, but had a slightly different taste than present day crackers. It all started in 1792 in the town of Newburyport, Massachusetts, when a business by the name of Pearson and Sons Bakery started baking something called pilot bread, which was comparable to what sailors ate on their ships. Pilot bread was hard and dense, however it was the customarily acknowledged cracker.
Credit for the saltine cracker is attributed to the Josiah Bent Bakery that was located in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The owner of the bakery watched the sales of pilot bread from his competitor Pearson & Sons. In 1801 Josiah Bent decided to create a better tasting cracker that could still be taken on ships and remain fresh as they sailed from port to port. After experimenting with different types of crackers, the bakery finally created a cracker that had a light flavor but was still crisp. These crackers were called soda crackers.
Seventy-five years later in 1876 the very first name brand saltine cracker, "Premium" , was introduced by F. L. Sommer & Company of St. Joseph, Missouri. The Premium brand used the traditional soda cracker recipe that had been developed and mass produced them for the general public. Their soda cracker was shaped into the familiar small square crackers with dusted salt on the top that we are familiar with till this day. Initially called the Premium Soda Cracker and later "Saltines" as a result of the baking salt ingredient, the invention quickly became popular and Sommer's business quadrupled within four years. The company was best known for their slogan, "Polly wants a cracker?" which ran in advertisements and on saltine cracker boxes. That company merged with other companies to form the American Biscuit Company in 1890 which then became after further mergers part of Nabisco in 1898. The continued use by Nabisco of the phrase "Polly wants a cracker?" made the saltine cracker famous and this slogan has become part of our everyday lexicon.
The word "Saltine" was actually a trademarked word that was owned by Nabisco, who took over the Premium brand. Nabisco lost the trademark ownership after the term "saltine" began to be used generically to refer to similar crackers. The name "saltine" was placed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary in 1907 and was defined as "a thin crisp cracker usually sprinkled with salt".
During the Roaring 20's, the saltine cracker became a true national favorite due to the success of the Premium brand. Prior to that time, the saltine cracker was well-known in parts of the Midwest and Missouri where the brand was founded and the factory was located. In the 1920s, Premium began distributing the recipe and saltine crackers to other regions of the country, which helped the saltine cracker grow in popularity.
The increase in popularity of the saltine cracker could be specifically traced back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The American people had little money and needed food products that were inexpensive , healthy and flavorful. The saltine cracker was mass produced and available at many stores with numerous brands to choose from.. People were able to use the saltine crackers as a filler in foods such as meatloaf allowing them to expand the portion quantity, or crumble the saltine cracker into a soup to help make the dish much more filling, without having to spend a lot of money.
Saltine crackers are generally eaten as a light snack, often with butter , cheese, peanut butter, cream cheese (my favorite way ), etc. The saltine cracker may also be crumbled or dipped into stews, soups, chilis, or dips, and even crumbled into salads. Typically saltine crackers are sold in boxes containing two to four stacks of crackers, each stack being wrapped in a sleeve of waxed paper or plastic. In restaurants, saltine crackers can be found in small wrapped packets of two crackers, which usually accompany a soup or salad. Cracker meal, a type of coarse to semi fine flour made from crushed saltine crackers, can be used as a topping for meals; breading for fried or baked red meats, chicken, fish or tofu; or for a thickener for soups, sauces, stews, and chilis.
The Saltine cracker is really an excellent snack to munch on throughout your weight reduction regimen with few carbs, calories, fats, etc. As a home remedy, the saltine cracker is eaten by many people in order to ease the discomfort of nausea and to settle an upset stomach. Pregnant women are also advised to snack on saltine crackers. The Saltine cracker has also been included in United States military field rations.
Nabisco's PREMIUM SALTINES is the #1 saltine cracker with a light-weight, flaky texture and gentle flavour. It is the brand most often associated with the saltine cracker, but today, any type of cracker with salt on the top can be called a saltine cracker.
Some familiar brand names of saltine crackers are Nabisco's Premium Saltine Cracker , Back to Nature Organic Saltine Cracker , Sunshine Biscuits' Krispy Saltine Cracker and Keebler's Zesta Saltine Cracker, both owned by Kellogg's, and Annie's Homegrown Organic Saltine Cracker. Saltin Noel crackers are also a favorite among some parts of the U.S. Hispanic community. Unsalted tops as well as organic whole grain saltine crackers can also be found.
I make money on some products and services that I talk about on this website through affiliate relationships with the merchants in question. I get a small commission on sales of those products. That in no way affects my opinion of those products and services.