January 30, 2023

Tom Smith and the Christmas Cracker

As we are celebrating the festive season with all of the Crackerdecorations and related accessories I wonder if anyone thinks “who invented this?” and this was brought to mind when pulling crackers at Rafters Restaurant on Christmas Day and out popped a small printout with the following information.

The History of Tom Smith

It was on a trip to Paris in 1840 that an adventurous and forward-thinking Tom Smith discovered the “bon-bon” sugared almond, wrapped in a twist of tissue paper.  Seven years later this simple idea evolved into the Christmas Cracker.

By placing a small love motto in the tissue paper he created enormous interest in this product, especially at Christmas and it was during a search for inspiration to achieve even greater sales that he casually threw a log on the fire.  The crackle sound, made by the burning log, gave him the idea that would eventually lead to the crackers we know and love today.  After a great deal of hard work and experimentation, he came up with a  cracking mechanism that created a “pop” as the “bon-bon” wrapping was broken.  This eventually became the snap and the cracker was born.

Over the next few years his idea evolved and grew and he moved from his original premises in Clerkenwell, East London, to Finsbury Square in the City.  His sons, Tom, Walter and Henry took over the business when he died and later a drinking fountain was erected in Finsbury Square by Walter, in memory of his mother and to commemorate the man who invented the Christmas Cracker.

It was Walter who introduced the paper hats and he toured the world to find new and unusual ideas for the gifts.

The Company was very aware of current affairs and crackers were created for Suffragettes, War Heroes, Charlie Chaplin, the Coronation and many other great occasions.  Exclusive crackers were also made for the Royal Family and still are to this day”

Tom Smith - 1823 to 1869
Tom Smith – 1823 to 1869
Picture courtesy of Peter Kimpton

Tom Smith died in 1869 at the age of 46 so it is a shame he did not live to a ripe old age and see his invention become so popular.

So there we are, not everyone knows that, and it is interesting to know how and when Christmas Crackers came into existence and when you next pull a cracker you can thank Tom Smith for making it possible.

By Margaret Sheard

To see more of Peter Kimpton’s research about Tom Smith  click here

2 thoughts on “Tom Smith and the Christmas Cracker

    1. Yes, so will I. Never even thought about it before but a nice little story.


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