The History of Christmas Crackers

A very English invention...

Source: Victoria and Albert Museum London

Tom Smith crackers from 1948

Tom Smith, an enterprising baker and confectioner, invented the Christmas Cracker in London's East End in 1847. His idea came to him on a trip to Paris, where he discovered the French 'bon bon'. The original French 'bon bon' was a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. 

He began selling these bon bons in his London store and they proved to be a huge hit! Smith decided to add a small love motto inside the wrapper to encourage sales year-round. 

Where does the 'pop' come from?

The inspiration for the 'pop' sound came from the sound of a log fire. Smith decided to use two narrow strips of paper together, with silver fulminate painted on one side to create a pop sound when pulled (due to friction). 

After this discovery, Tom Smith Crackers went from strength to strength. By the 1890's, the company employed 2000 people in their London premises.

 Video of Christmas crackers being made in 1910

The popularity of novelty crackers booms in the 1900s

Novelty crackers boomed during the 1900s and tended to follow topical trends. For example, crackers were used to celebrate major occasions, such as the end of World War One in 1918 and the 1926 World Tour by Prince Edward.

The image below shows the brightly coloured novelty cracker boxes from 1900-1950. They are a unique visual record of British history during that time. 

Batger's Christmas Crackers box labels 1900-1950

Source: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The invention of the Totem Cracker

Totem crackers are the closest to the Christmas Crackers we see today on Christmas tables. The image below is an excellent example of a totem cracker from 1927. The name 'totem' refers to a dance called the 'Totem Tom-Tom' from the musical 'Rose-Marie' in 1925 at London's West End.

This totem cracker example combines orange cellophane with gold foil and a sticker showing the 'Totem-Pole Girl'. Inside were musical toys, imitation jewellery and jokes. The sold for 34 shillings each. 

1927 Christmas Cracker by Tom Smith & Company

Source: Victoria and Albert Museum

Christmas Crackers today

Tom Smith & Co still produce crackers to this day in the UK. There has been an explosion of new brands in the last 50 years, from luxury to fun-sized. 

Tom Smith still produces special crackers for the Royal Household. Although the design and content are a closely guarded secret.

Christmas Cracker Warehouse sells Celebration crackers and offer the largest variety in Australia. Our Novelty crackers are always a huge hit and reminiscent of the original Tom Smith crackers from the 1900s. One of our best sellers is the Penguin Racing Crackers shown below. 

With so many cracker designs to choose from, you are sure to find something to please all your guests this Christmas at Christmas Cracker Warehouse.


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