For over a century now, Nabisco products (i.e., N.B.C., National Biscuit Company) have been found in America’s kitchens. The company was formed in 1898, when a Chicago attorney, Adolphus W. Green, helped over 114 independent bakers from across the country merge into one group, which was called the National Biscuit Company.
Since the Nabisco name is so well-known; it has some serious collectors. In fact, avid Nabisco collecting fans (N.B.C., National Biscuit Co.) started a collector’s club called “The Inner Seal Club.”
The symbol/trademark found on Nabisco products is called the In-er-Seal mark and is a key for collectors when identifying the age of an N.B.C. package or box. It’s said the Nabisco trademark symbol was designed from the 15th century, Italian Printer’s Mark. Adolphus Green found the symbol in a catalog where it was said to represent the triumph of good over evil and quality.)
Up until 1941, the initials “N.B.C.” were used in the National Biscuit Company trademark, but were exchanged for the companies popular nickname “Nabisco” after some confusion with the Television Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) initials.
The most sought-after Nabisco collectibles are from the early 20th century. When Nabisco first started, the biscuit cookies and crackers were stored in large bins, or cracker barrels and sold at country grocery stores by the scoopful. The biscuit containers and the china scoop to retrieve the biscuits, are prized along with: wood crates carrying the N.B.C./National Biscuit Company label, and early metal tins, store jars, and racks.
Additionally, rare-Ideal Novelty & Toy Co. composition and cloth dolls made between 1914-1930 (16″ Uneeda Kid, a.k.a. the Slicker Boy holding his box of Uneeda biscuits; and two “Zu Zu” clown dolls-15″ and 10″ sizes), Nabisco ephemera marked with the early In-Er-Seal trademarks; and “Trolley Car advertisement cards” from the 1920s and 1930s are highly collectible. (Trolley ad cards were printed artwork on cardboard and displayed in famous trolley cars and local theaters around America.)
(I remember going to the local grocery store and getting a box of animal crackers as a treat for being good while mom did her shopping. You can still buy these cute boxed snacks today.) (By the way, the strings were added to these small boxes during Christmas 1914 to encourage hanging them on Christmas trees as ornaments, once the contents were consumed.)
Did you know it was Adolphus Green who searched for a manufacturing company to create a more sanitary way to handle baked biscuits other than scooping them out of an unprotected bin or crate? It was N.B.C. who patented the “In-Er-Seal waxed paper lining to retain product freshness. Their packaged crackers and cookies placed in a box with a triple layer of cellophane revolutionized the food industry.
Zu Zu the Clown Ginger Snaps: A National Biscuit Company Mascot
N.B.C. made several crackers and cookies, and in 1901, Zu Zu Ginger Snap cookies became a big hit and favored brand. The snaps were round drop cookies made with a combination of ginger and sugar-cane molasses. Nabisco (N.B.C.) created Zu Zu the clown for their advertising mascot. Zu Zu could be found in magazine ads, billboard signs, posters, card slips; free clown costumes for children (A innovative advertising idea!), and Ideal Co. clown dolls. Additionally, he would appear in person-usually in parades- wearing a baggy smock-like yellow outfit with reddish-colored stars. (The clown seemed to look kinda cute when featured in earlier ads, but as the years passed, this clown began to look a little intimidating.)
Around the 1940s, Nabisco created a few hard plastic clown (probably a take-off of Zu Zu) figural store displays on metal stands that measured 3 to 4-foot tall and came with lettered blocks sets to spell NABISCO and COOKIES. The clowns wore a silk clown-like suit in a Nabisco themed print.
Weird and odd though are his eyes- they light up and appear to be slightly evil. If his appearance is not scary enough; the displays were shipped around the country in wooden boxes called “THE COFFINS.” EEKS!
“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Zuzu Bailey
Did you know, Zu Zu Bailey in the 1946 Christmas classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” got her name from Zu Zu Ginger Snaps?
The actress Karolyn Grimes, who appeared in the film when she was 6-years old stated, “There was a product called Zu Zu Ginger Snaps, which were made in the early 1900s by the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). Zu Zu the clown originally was a little blonde-haired clown featured on the box of these cookies. When George comes back from his ‘unborn’ sequence during the movie- he runs up the stairs and is so happy to see his little girl and his family, he says, “Zuzu, my little ginger snap!” “So, I was named after a cookie.”
The real-life story of Karolyn Grimes was not as wonderful. She became an orphan child at the age of 15. Her mother passed away when she was 12, and three years later her father was killed in a car wreck. Karolyn was sent to live with her aunt and uncle who frowned upon Hollywood and TV, so ultimately Karolyn never really knew how famous the movie had become. It was Jimmy Stewart who decided to track her down in the 1980s, to join in on the movie’s ongoing popularity.
Ever since her rediscovery, Karolyn has been involved with traveling around the states to promote the real message of the film, It’s a Wonderful Life: Faith, God, and love of community.
In closing, I wanted to share with my readers the recipe for, “Zuzu, My Little Ginger Snap cookies. (Just click on the underlined area.)
Bob Weissman says
I have a N.B.C. Cookie Sale Sign It’s quite long logo near front and back also cookies front and back it’s close to mint. I never knew the age till I read this article now I know it’s from 1918. It’s all framed looks incredible
Wow, nice treasure.
sarah b roberts says
I have an Uneeda clock, boy with biscuit tin on yellow ‘plaster’ hexagon shape. Nabisco oval with double cross, no sig. The back says Junique fine lamps and shades, in chesterfield md Bought at thrift store, ever heard of such a thing. Google search does not show any.
Must be a rare collectible…sweet!