Box for Tom Smith's Crackers

Contributed by Royal Pump Room Museum Harrogate

Box for Tom Smith's Crackers

Christmas crackers are an essential part of the British Christmas. They were invented by Englishman Tom Smith. Tom started work at a baker's and confectioner's in London in 1830, but soon had his own business in Clerkenwell.

During a visit to Paris in the 1840s he came across sweets sold in tissue paper with a twist at each end. He started selling them and this simple idea evolved into the cracker. During the 1850s he added a motto to the sweet. The sweets were bought mainly by men for women so the mottos wetre mainly love poems.

In 1860 he added a banger so that when pulled apart the crackers made a loud bang. At first these novelties were called casaques, but this quickly changed to crackers. when other started to copy his idea he replaced the sweets with a surprise gift.

After Tom died his sons took over the business and in the 1900s they added paper hats to the contents. By the 1930s the love poems on the mottos had been replaced by jokes.

All the crackers were made by hand today the company still makes around 50 million crackers a year.

Somebody obviously enjoyed these crackers as today we only have the box left, dating from around 1910.

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