After the 1876 Centennial, “sweetened” popcorn was a huge hit. This was also the first time many people experienced this unique treat. The I.L. Baker Company paid $7,000 for the exclusive rights to sell popcorn in Machinery Hall. Seventeen years later, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the world was first introduced to caramel corn by Frederick Wilhelm Rueckheim. This would later evolve into the famous snack, Cracker Jack!
The I.L. Baker Company Sugar Popcorn vending booth.
Image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Historical Register, 1876. (Please Touch Museum Collection)
1 c. sugar
1 T. unsalted butter
3 T. water
6 cups air-popped popcorn
Food coloring or Kool-Aid/drink mix packet (optional)
• Combine sugar, butter and water over medium heat in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly.
• Cook liquid until it is a thick syrup (approx. 5 minutes)
• Remove pan from heat. Add food coloring or Kool-Aid powder.
• Place popcorn into a large brown paper bag, pour syrup over the top; close bag and shake until syrup mixture is evenly distributed.
Can be colored to any holiday…make red, white and blue for the 4th of July!