The origins of Christmas Crackers
Tom Smith was the man who supposedly invented the Christmas Cracker in 1847.
He was a London confectioner who sold bon bons wrapped in a twist of paper.
He added a motto, but this didn't turn out to be a great success.
Tom needed a brainwave!
The story goes that while sitting by the fire, the crackle of a log triggered the idea of the 'snap' which we have come to know and love today.
The twist of paper had to be made larger and the sweets were eventually replaced by a gift.
Tom's son Walter added the paper hats and the varied designs to keep the company "Tom Smiths" ahead of the competition.
In World War II cracker production was banned, perhaps to save money.
Tom Smith's took over various companies and moved out of London to Norwich where they merged with Caley's.
In 1963 one of their factories caught fire, the third in their history, but they managed to survive and produced crackers again until the 1980's when they had a management buyout.
Unfortunately the company was not able to continue in an independent state and in 1998 it was bought out by Napier Industries, but that too came to a sad end.
Today there are still crackers made under the brand name of "Tom Smith" produced by Brite Sparks who are owned by International Greetings Plc.
To get a real insight into Tom Smith go to Peter Kimpton’s website The King Of Crackers. As a former employee of Tom Smith’s he has written a fascinating book on Tom Smith.
Crackers are an English tradition although they can be found in various forms around the world.
Crackers range from the quite inexpensive to the truly sumptuous.
The cracker can be made from paper or card with an internal cardboard tube to strengthen and keep the shape of the barrel.
The cracker can be many different sizes from quite small - the type you put on the Christmas tree - to the giant party cracker which sits on the table as a centrepiece and has lots of gifts in it.
The biggest cracker ever made was constructed in Australia in 1998. It measured 55.45 metres long and 3.6 metres high. That must have gone with a bang!
Crackers are now used at any time of the year - New Year, Weddings (as favours), Hen Parties, Anniversary and Birthday Celebrations, and promoting corporate events.
There is a lot of information on the internet to help you "make your own" and you can buy kits which have all the bits included - the paper card, hats, snaps, jokes and ribbons to tie the cracker up.
Children love to have a go at these.
You can also buy the crackers which are "Fill Your Own". These crackers come ready-made with the cracker formed but open at one end and complete with hat, snap and joke.
All you have to do is find a gift to pop in and tie up the open end! Simple!
These can be tailor made to the individual with a gift you know they will love.