Chocolate Boxes and Biscuit Tins

When did the idea of Christmas become commercial? Museum of Brands explore the 150-year story of decorative biscuit tins and chocolate boxes and how it may have been the start of a commercialization of Christmas.

Exhibition opens on the 18th December and runs until the 31st May 2019.

During the 1840s, the Christmas traditions of decorating the Xmas tree, sending friends a Christmas card and pulling a cracker, were all beginning gradually to take off – for those who could afford it. Then, for the festive season of 1868, a new phenomenon arrived – decorative packaging that transformed biscuits or chocolates into a gift able present.

Huntley & Palmers biscuits created a special tin to promote the fact that Queen Victoria had granted them a royal warrant. Other major manufacturers followed – Carr’s, Macfarlane Lang, Jacob’s, McVitie’s, Peek Frean – producing a glorious variety of tins in shapes and designs that were eagerly anticipated each year.

From 1868, Cadbury’s and Fry’s offered their customers a range of sentimental pictorial card boxes to be filled with chocolates. By 1882, Rowntree’s were producing a range of over 150 different pictures. Each year there were more and more ‘exotic’ gift boxes, a visual tribute to the box-maker’s art. Sadly, with the rise of the supermarket and decline of the confectionery retailer, the traditional Christmas chocolate box has all but disappeared.

However, it is perhaps not surprising that examples of these decorative objects have survived the ravages of time, being treasured over the generations for their glamour or use as a handy container. And here they are for us to enjoy and admire once more in a special exhibition at the Museum of Brands from 18th December 2018 – 31st May 2019.

Entry to the Museum is £9 for adults, £7 for students and children under 7 years enter for free.

Tickets include full access to the Museum’s displays of 150 years of consumer culture and temporary exhibitions such as Time Out 50: 50 Covers and Can Marketing Save Lives?

Admission tickets to the Museum include full access to our exhibitions.