Saltine crackers are one of the most popular types of crackers in the world today. Sometimes called saltina or soda crackers, these square foot items create a wonderful, salty crunch that is perfect for a variety of different foods. How you define the inventor of these crackers depends on your idea of what came first: the chicken? Or the egg?
Let’s take a look at the foundation of these crackers and who perfected that foundation to give us the crackers that we all love so much.
Pilot Bread Is the Foundation of the Modern Saltine Cracker
In the 18th and 19th centuries, sailors needed to have a durable food product that they could take out with them for extended trips. It needed to be a solid food product that could stand up to the tough, salty environments that the sea provided on a daily basis. It also needed to be able to store for up to several weeks without spoiling. That’s where the invention of pilot bread was born.
Created by the Pearson and Sons Bakery in Newburyport, MA, this bakery wanted to create a product for their customers that were similar to what sailors in the area would eat while on duty. Their pilot bread was hard and it was dense, but it was also the first incarnation of what someone could legitimately call a cracker.
Another bakery in town, the Josiah Bent Bakery, wasn’t about to let this new product steal their regular business. As sales spiked at this other bakery, Bent decided that he could create a baked product that tasted better, could still be taken out on ships, but was also strong enough that it could be transported to different ports with ease. After some experimentation, the first soda crackers were born.
Premium Brought the First Name Brand Saltines to Market
It was 70 years later that the first national name brand bakery was able to bring saltines to the general public. They used the traditional soda cracker recipe that had been developed and mass produced them so that they were in the small squares that we’re familiar with still today. The word “Saltine” is actually a trademarked word that is owned by Nabisco, who took over the Premium brand. The phrase “Polly wants a cracker?” made these crackers quite famous.
They were often considered a treat up until the Great Depression. At that point, with money scarce and bellies hungry, saltines became a staple of many American diets because there were affordable, flavorful, and could extend different foods so that they were more filling without compromising a tight budget.
Saltines aren’t an important invention just because they are a durable baked good. Nabisco was also one of the first companies to utilize computers in the production process of an item and they put those computers on the saltine cracker manufacturing line. Thanks to a little healthy competition, we have these crackers to enjoy, so bite into one with your favorite topping and remember who invented them.