History of Nutcrackers

  • Inspiration_HistoryofNutcrackers_Soldiers.jpg

    Collection of toy soldier nutcrackers in various shapes and sizes. The Erzgebirge region that originated this type of nutcracker is still a very important producer of these kinds of traditional pieces.
    Photo by Jelene Morris
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    This is the oldest known metal nutcracker in the world! It is in the shape of two hands, made of bronze and gold. It is on exhibit in the Taranto Archaeological National Museum (Taranto, Italy).
    Image by Fabrizio Pivari
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    Theo Eichmann made these wooden screw nutcrackers, which were first developed in the 17th century.
    Image by Gerd Eichmann

Nutcrackers have been around for thousands of years. The very first nutcrackers were pitted stones that were used to crush open the nuts. While these nutcrackers were much simpler than the elaborately decorated devices we have today, the stones served their purpose. These kinds of pitted stone nutcrackers have been found in the U.S. and in Europe and have been dated at 4,000 to 8,000 years old. 

Wooden nutcrackers started out as simple devices, but by the 1400s and 1500s, beautifully sculpted versions were appearing in France and England. By the 1700s and 1800s, Austrian, Italian, and Swiss carvers were making animal and human-shaped nutcrackers. The soldier nutcrackers that still appear during Christmas time were created in the Sonneberg and Erzgebirge regions of Germany in the early 1800s. Since then, German workshops have been busy making similar wooden nutcrackers, especially to meet the demands of U.S. nutcracker collectors.

Fun Facts:

  • The largest nutcracker in the world (according to the Guinness World Records) measures 10.1 meters (33 ft. 1 in.). It was made in Germany in 2008. That’s a nutcracker the height of a three-story building!
  • Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher and polymath, is said to have invented the first lever-action nutcracker.
  • German legend says that nutcrackers will bring good luck to your family and will protect your home.