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Newton, Mass., Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Fig Newtons

May 7, 1991 GMT

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) _ Thousands of Fig Newton lovers turned out Tuesday to celebrate the centennial of the fruit-filled cookie named after this Boston suburb.

Country singer Juice Newton sang, TV commercial character Mr. Big Fig danced and manufacturer Nabisco provided refreshments - lots and lots of Fig Newtons.

A truckload of cookies was parked outside Newton City Hall for the benefit of about 8,000 revelers, including representatives of the California Fig Board.

″Nobody is wanting for a Fig Newton today,″ Nabisco spokesman Mark Gutsche said.


The cookie cache included a 100-inch Fig Newton - one inch for each year - baked especially for Fig Newton Day.

The fig-filled cookie was among at least seven snacks named after Boston- area communities and landmarks by the Kennedy Biscuit Works of Cambridge, Mass., in the 1890s.

Over the years, the other cookies and crackers - the Brighton, Boston Family, Cambridge Salts, Beacon Hill, Shrewsbury and Melrose - were discontinued.

Nabisco absorbed Kennedy Biscuit Works and now makes the cookies in Chicago and East Hanover, N.J. The old Cambridge factory has been converted to condominiums.

But the Fig Newton has survived and, more recently, flourished. Nabisco said more than 1 billion Fig Newtons are consumed annually, with sales up 24 percent last year and 27 percent so far this year.

Gutsche said the Fig Newton is Nabisco’s third best-selling cookie, behind chocolate-rich Oreos and Chips Ahoy.

A strong consumer interest in nutrition has fueled the cookie’s new popularity, Gutsche said. The primary ingredient is fruit, and the cookie is relatively low in fat.

Mr. Big Fig, a character in the company’s 1970s TV commercials, performed a song-and-dance routine that ended with: ″Is it good? Darn tootin’ 3/8 Do the Big Fig Newton.″

Newton elementary students created 15 murals parodying famous paintings, each with a figgy twist. Among the works: ″George Washington Crossing the Newton,″ ″Starry Newton″ and ″The Birth of Newton,″ in which a cookie, rather than the goddess Venus, arises from an open shell.

Nabisco archivist Dave Stivers, who set up a display of Fig Newton memorabilia, said the cookies haven’t changed much over the past century, except in size.

In the 1890s, Fig Newtons were larger, he said. They were often served two to a bowl, topped with cream. At that time, the cookies were sold in wooden barrels and cost 14 cents per pound - about a tenth of their current retail price.