Christmas crackers have been a staple at the table for as long as most of us can remember. Whenever the festive season comes around, supermarkets and department stores are filled with boxes of Christmas crackers that are just waiting to be popped open with a friend or family member. Whether it’s a typical Christmas cracker with a party hat and plastic toy or a more expensive variety with sweets and fancy chocolates, there is a huge selection available.
But how exactly did this tradition of Christmas crackers even start? In this post, we’ll be diving into the history of the Christmas cracker and explore how it came to be.
It all Started with a Sweet Maker in London
A sweet maker in London by the name of Tom Smith originally saw French bon bon sweets during a trip to Paris in 1840. By 1845, Tom had tried to create his own versions of the sweet while also including a small motto or riddle with it. The goal was to add a bit of fun to the sweets to make them more alluring to customers.
Unfortunately, these sweets didn’t sell too well.
Legend has it that Tom was sitting in front of his log fire one night, saddened by the failure of his new sweets. As he watched the logs in front of him, he took an interest in the way it cracked and popped with sparks. It was at that moment that inspiration hit him. What if his sweets and toys could also be opened with a satisfying pop or crack?
The Birth of the Christmas Cracker
Fast forward to 1861 and Tom had launched a new range known as “Bangs of Expectation”. It’s said that he bought the recipe to produce small cracks and bangs in his crackers from a fireworks company known as Brock’s Fireworks. This formed the basis for the very first range of Christmas crackers. They were also known as “cosaques”, thought to be named after Cossack soldiers that were known for riding horses and firing guns into the air.
When Tom passed away, his cracker business was taken over by his three sons Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter was the one that added hats into the trackers and also travelled across the world for gift ideas to put into the crackers. The company also developed a large range of themed crackers. Some were aimed at single men and women, others were for war heroes and some were themed after the British Royal Family.
Into the 20th Century
Tom Smith specialized in producing bespoke and high-end crackers. The company also developed a large range of themed crackers, according to the current affairs of the time. Some were aimed at single men and women, others were for Suffragettes, and some were themed after the British Royal Family
The Tom Smith Company also fulfilled special orders for both companies and individuals. In 1927, a Gentleman wrote enclosing a diamond engagement and 10 shilling note, asking for the ring to be put in a special cracker for his fiancée. Unfortunately, no address was supplied, and he never contacted the Company again. The ring, letter and 10-shilling note are still in the companies possession to this day!
The Tom Smith factory caught fire three times during the 20th Century, in 1963, one in the 1930’s and another in the 1941 Blitz of London. The company managed to survive and produced crackers until the 1980’s, where they were employing 500 people and produced 50,000,000 crackers per year. The company was then bought out in 1998 by Napier Industries.
Christmas Crackers Today
Today, Christmas crackers are at the dinner table every year. They still produce a satisfying bang when they’re pulled and are usually filled with a hat, a little toy or gift and a festive joke. They’re infamous for their bad jokes and you can still buy some unique themed crackers to add a little fun.
Whether you’re planning to get together this Christmas, hosting virtual drinks or a Zoom gathering, you can provide your employees with bright, eye-catching, promotional crackers. Share jokes, swap gifts and don your party hat to finish off your festive outfit perfectly.
Umbrellas are one of the most popular promotional products in the UK, thanks to their large branding area and the amount of times they are needed by consumers, thanks to the regular downpours synonymous with British weather.
But, where did the word umbrella come from? Did they originate to protect against the rain and when did they start to fit inside a handbag?
Since we produce a wide range of printed promotional umbrellas, we decided that these questions needed answering, so have compiled a brief overview covering the history of the umbrella!
Where did the word Umbrella Come From?
Umbrella is a word that has its roots in Latin, as many modern words do today. The word ‘umbrella’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Umbra’ that means shadow. The Umbrella in western culture became popular for those who live in wetter climates, however often were only used by women as an accessory, and as protection from the sun.
Many English gentlemen also used the word ‘Hanway’ in reference to Persian traveller Joan Hanway, who carried an umbrella and used it frequently when he visited England in the 1700s.
Umbrellas Before Time Began
It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the Umbrella as the concept has been around since ancient times, this is why when searching for the true origin of the Umbrella we must look in several places.
Umbrellas in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt is known for inventing many great things during their time, and over 4000 years ago their technology was more advanced than in England in the middle ages.
Parasols were first created 4000 years ago to shield royals and nobles from the sun’s rays. You may picture a parasol in the shape of a tree leaf being held over an Egyptian ruler to protect them from the sun. Parasols were also made of tree branches and animal skins back in this age, and these materials were extremely expensive, hence the exclusivity of the parasol to the upper classes.
Umbrellas in China
In the 11th Century, the rich people of China began to use their own version of an umbrella to protect them from the sun and the rain. Once established here, these parasols were made waterproof although this idea was not exported to Europe.
Umbrellas Closer to home
The first notable presence of the parasol in Europe was in Italy and Greece, as trade routes with Egypt thrived. The non-waterproof parasol became a part of life for a short while before the fall of the Roman Empire, and then ceased to exist in Europe for 1000 years.
In the 16th century the Umbrella once again emerged in Europe as a way to protect from the rain. Europe had a much wetter climate than other parts of the world so this quickly became a popular shield from harsh rainfall.
Up until the 1790s it was generally only women who used the Umbrella. However when a Persian explorer called Jonas Hanway publicly used one during his visit to the UK, and although openly ridiculed at first, men began to use the Umbrella too. Although unpopular with men at first, it soon went into large scale production as the male population grew more fond of it.
James Smith & Sons
James Smith and Sons opened its doors in 1830 and became the first all-umbrella store. It is still located on 53 New Oxford Street in London. These umbrellas were carved with wood and whalebone, and the handles were carved to create an aesthetically pleasing accessory.
English Steels Umbrella Company
In 1852 the steel ribbed umbrella was invented by a man called Samuel Fox. The English Steels Company became successful and they say that the creation of this type of Umbrella originated as a way to use up farthingale stays (steel used in a woman’s corset).
Umbrellas in Modern Times
In 1928 the pocket umbrella was invented by Hans Haupt. She was a sculpture student in Vienna and looked to improve upon the foldable umbrellas already in production by compacting them to be smaller. The Umbrella was named ‘Flirt’, and in Germany the company ‘Knirps’ began to produce them. Knirps is the common word used in Germany for this type of Umbrella to this day.
In 1969, Bradford E Phillips created a "working folding umbrella" which can be seen today in folding umbrellas.
Nowadays, umbrellas have a huge global market and most of the umbrellas worldwide are made in China. Millions of umbrellas are sold every year, with the UK selling a total of 1.5 million each year.
And with the development of the High Wind Umbrellas, these umbrellas are made from reinforced materials that can withstand more extreme qualities of rain and wind speeds.
Umbrella Printing in the UK
At Really Good Branding we specialist in the production of high quality promotional umbrellas which can be printed in one colour on a fabric of your choice, several colours or full colour, with imagery reaching accross the whole canvas.
If you are looking to showcase your brand to existing and potential customers, or offer a gift that will enjoy plenty of use, then contact our team to discover how we can help find the right branded Christmas Cracker printed umbrella for your budget and campaign.
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