A Christmas Selection Box from the Archives

With Christmas fast approaching we thought we’d take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and also show off some festive finds from the V&A Archives!

On a trip to Paris in the 1830s the confectioner Tom Smith conceived the idea of manufacturing bonbons with lucky mottoes. In 1847 he further developed this concept by placing the sweet and motto inside a ‘cracker’, which would include a snap to add to the surprise. In 1847 he patented the cracker, which he manufactured as a novelty for use at a wide range of celebrations. The Archive of Art and Design holds the Tom Smith Group Ltd archive (AAD/1998/3; AAD/2001/7).

Uncut sheets of mottos and jokes

Cracker contents, such as paper hats and toys

Tom Smith’s Christmas crackers “Bank of Love”                                                     

The Archive of Art and Design holds the Habitat archive which includes this Christmas dress by Vivienne Westwood

Christmas dress by Vivienne Westwood

It was commissioned by Habitat as part of a marketing exercise and consists of a green net skirt hung with presents and baubles and a red boned bodice. There is also a string of beads hung with presents and baubles, ca. 1990.

The Museum has lots of objects in its collections relating to Christmas and the V&A Archive has leaflets and posters advertising events on the theme of Christmas.

A Victorian Christmas poster.

Christmas flyer

We often get asked what Sir Henry Cole, the man who commissioned the first commercial Christmas card, did on Christmas day and New Year’s Eve. His diary for 1859 (to take one at random) reveals:

25 Dec 1859
Xmas presents. Gave Children their muffs.
At Mr Harness’ Church.
good Sermon contrasting the Heathen and Xtian worships. With 2 Children to see Sappers dinner laid out. With Marian and 2 Girls to drink their healths. Uncle John dined with us.

31 Dec 1859
In the Evg the Girls &c acted a charade “Mosquito”. Our 3 neighbours & others came & stayed till the New Years opened.

The Archive and Library Study Room at Blythe House reopens on Thursday 2 January so do make an appointment to come and see us in the New Year!

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