Sweet manufacturer and inventor Tom Smith changed Christmas traditions forever in the mid 19th century with the creation of the Christmas cracker. A little piece of his history still lives on in Finsbury Square, just across the road from one of our biggest Christmas party venues, The Artillery Garden at The HAC.
The ostentatious fountain that can be seen in the Square was commissioned by Tom and Walter Smith to commemorate their mother Martha, wife of the original Tom Smith, of Christmas cracker fame.
Tom’s Christmas crackers were inspired by confectionary; he was first a sweet manufacturer (his confectionary store was located on Goswell Road). On a trip to Paris he admired the French-style bonbons. These sweets with twisted wrappers looked a little like Quality Street’s coveted ‘purple one’. Smith made a bigger version of the pretty little sweets, and removed its sugary innards, instead filling the parcel with mottos, love messages, jokes, novelty gifts and of course a tiny explosive!
One reviewer wrote that the crackers were “multitudinous, ingenious, and dainty… likely to extend his fame in connection with such elegant trifles.” The firm employed 2,000 people at the time, producing 112,000 boxes of crackers throughout the year, in preparation for Christmas. Although it has since moved out of Finsbury, the company is still trading today.
We love a good cracker joke, a party hat and a novelty miniature sewing kit – that’s why we’ve already got through 5,000 Christmas crackers at our parties this Christmas. Tom Smith, we are big fans!