Making Christmas Crackers
D: A.E. Coleby. P: Cricks & Martin Films. UK 1910
“This seasonal interest film shows the girls and women of Messrs Clark, Nickolls and Coombs factory making Christmas decorations (probably at the company’s licensed Clamico Works, at Victoria Park, London). It illustrates the various processes involved, with some work done by hand and some with the aid of machines.
The workforce that we see consists exclusively of women. The girls are all very neatly dressed and orderly – in marked contrast to some other films of industrial processes such as the same year’s A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner, in which women are seen doing very heavy physical labour. As was usual for interest films of this type, the finished product is seen being enjoyed by a bourgeois family round the Christmas tree, with Santa putting in a special cameo appearance. Presumably the producers were aiming at this respectable middle-class audience and at those a bit further down the social scale who might aspire to join it.”
“This is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Its production was sponsored by Clark, Nickolls & Coombs, the company who were responsible for making the crackers, and it shows that their workforce was almost entirely made up of women. These working class women stand in distinct contrast to the middle-class family shown enjoying the fruits of such factory labours around the Christmas tree – suggesting this was a form of advertising and possibly education, demonstrating both the processes of manufacture and that the company sold (or at least aimed to sell) their products to an aspirational middle-class market. The idea of consumerism and consumption at Christmas is clearly not a new one!”
Another Kind Of Mind
“The Christmas cracker was invented by London-based confectioner and baker Tom Smith (1823 – 1869) who set up shop in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell in the 1840s. Smith initially produced wedding cakes and sweets. On a trip to Paris he discovered the French ‘bon bon’, a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. Bonbons proved a hit at Christmas time and to encourage year-round sales, Smith added a small love motto inside the wrapper. The inspiration to add the explosive ‘pop’ was supposedly sparked by the crackling sound of a log fire. Smith patented his first cracker device in 1847 and perfected the mechanism in the 1860s. It used two narrow strips of paper layered together, with silver fulminate painted on one side and an abrasive surface on the other – when pulled, friction created a small explosion. To stave off competition, the company introduced a range of cracker designs, which were marketed as a novelty for use at a wide range of celebrations. Tom’s son, Walter, added the elaborate hats, made of fancy paper, and sourced novelties and gifts from Europe, America and Japan. The success of the cracker enabled the business to grow and move to larger premises in Finsbury Square, employing 2,000 people by the 1890s, including many female workers.”
The Christmas cracker
A Visit to Peak Frean & Co’s Biscuit Works
P: Cricks & Martin Films. UK 1906
“George Howard Cricks and John Howard Martin first met when they both worked for Robert Paul in the late nineteenth century. Martin was in charge of the darkroom, and Cricks of the sale of films and equipment through Paul’s Animatographe Depot in High Holborn.
Cricks left to form his own company, and Cricks and Martin was founded in 1908, when Martin replaced Cricks’ first partner, Henry Martin Sharp, at their studios in Mitcham in Surrey. In 1910 they moved to bigger studio premises at Waddon New Road in Croydon. (…)
Their output until 1912 was short comics, melodramas and industrial subjects, not unlike many other British manufacturers at that time. Their comedies were routine, although The Biter Bit (1909) showed some invention within the chase format by showing an escalating chase on foot, by bicycle and finally by car. (…)
Where Cricks and Martin particularly excelled were in their industrial subjects. They produced a great number of finely made subjects chronicling aspects of various British industries such as A Day in a Pottery Works (1909), The Birth of a Big Gun (1908), and Making Christmas Crackers (1910), and in Cliff Climbing (1908) they secured amazing views of a professional egg collector dangling from a cliff face at Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.
On the fiction side, by 1911 Cricks and Martin were developing series with recurring comic characters including Charley Smiler, played by Fred Evans, who would find fame as the character Pimple for the Clarendon Film Co. In October 1911 they announced an ambitious expansion in the scope of their projects, with better plots, better acting and better production. By the end of the year they had the largest producing staff of any British manufacturer and had produced their first feature length film, Pirates of 1920 (1911).”
Simon Brown, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors