Christmas in February!

Depending on how you look at it, you could either say that Christmas has come two months late, or ten months early, at South Shields Museum! The reason: I’ve just opened a parcel from the USA and inside was a ‘Wright’s Christmas Assortment’ biscuit tin. The tin is empty, but even if its contents were still extant, I’d think twice about sampling them, as they would be over 70 years old! There isn’t a ‘best before’ date on the tin, but if there were, it would be something along the lines of BBE 31/05/1938!

Wright's Christmas Assortment tin

He's Making a List, Checking it Twice...Gunna Find Out Who's Naughty or Nice...

The biscuits were made by Wright’s Biscuits Ltd. of South Shields, a firm whose origins dated back to the 19th century when the company, then called L. Wright & Son, made ships biscuits for the busy maritime trade on the Tyne. Wright’s Biscuits Ltd. came into being about 1933, when Messrs Webster and Cross took over as Directors. The company had, by this time, switched from production of ships biscuits to ‘fancy biscuits’, i.e. biscuits for domestic consumption.

To help sell their biscuits, the new Directors drafted in Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964), a popular illustrator of fairy tale and nursery rhyme books, known for her depictions of plump children. Attwell created ‘Mischief’, a rotund impish little boy, generally depicted holding a large ginger nut, which became the Wight’s company trademark.

Wright's Biscuits advertising tray

Wright's Biscuits advertising tray, about 1950s. TWCMS : 2009.2307

The rebranding clearly worked, as the company went from strength to strength, supplying its biscuits to all corners of the country as well as exporting to places as far flung as ‘Hamburg’ and ‘Rangoon’, as the photo below reveals.

Loading a Wright's Biscuits van

Dispatching Wright's Biscuits to the four corners of the globe! Photographed by Turners of Newcastle, 1947. TWAS: DT.TUR/2/891/j

Returning to my lovely tin, I tracked it down in Maryland of all places, so it must have either been exported to America by Wright’s, or sent by someone as a Christmas present. Considering its age and the fact that it is a paper covered tin, it has survived remarkably well over the years. My best guess is that it dates to the mid to late 1930s, or possibly the immediate post war years.

Wright's Christmas Assortment tin

He Sees You When You're Sleeping...He Knows When You're Awake...

The lid bears a delightful illustration by Mabel Lucie Attwell depicting a little boy and girl with Santa, who is shown to be holding a ‘Wright’s Little Mischief Assortment’ tin. I’ve seen the depiction of the little boy and girl, the latter offering her playmate a bite of her biscuit, reproduced on other tins. Attwell titled the scene “Generosity”, since the girl was willing to share her Wright’s biscuit rather than keep it all to herself.

Wright's Christmas Assortment tin

Santa holding the 'Wright's Little Mischief Assortment' tin

The tin joins a selection of other items in the museum which, together, help to tell the story of Wright’s, including different variations of tins, promotional and advertising material, and even a collection of cast brass biscuit cutters, acquired late last year as a very special addition to the museum’s Wright’s collection. The museum is always keen to add to its Wright’s collection, so if you have something related to or issued by the company, lurking in the back of a cupboard or gathering dust in your attic, please do get in touch; we’d love to hear from you!

Wright's Biscuits Milk Chocolate Assorted tin

A Wright's Biscuits Milk Chocolate Assorted tin. TWCMS : 2011.253

Wright's Biscuits VE Day letter

A letter sent to Wright's Biscuits staff marking VE Day, 1945. TWCMS : 2011.243

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