'Syrian' biscuit tin, tinplate with offset lithography printing, M.J. Franklin Collection of British Biscuit Tins, made by Huntley, Boorne & Stevens, Reading, 1903
Height: 16.6 cm, Width: 18.9 cm
British Galleries, room 125b
Manufactured by Huntley, Boorne & Stevens for Huntley & Palmers, both in Reading, Berkshire
Decorative and imaginative tins were used by Victorian manufacturers to sell their biscuits from 1868. Christmas was the key time of the year for sales. Manufacturers competed with more inventive ideas, such as this one in the shape of an Indian-style table. The manufacturer produced 35,000 tins in this shape in 1903. [27/03/2003]
Made for Huntley & Palmers.
Museum No. M.297-1983 [07/1994]
The British biscuit tin came about when the Licensed Grocer's Act of 1861 allowed groceries to be individually packaged and sold. Coinciding with the removal of the duty on paper for printed labels. It was only a short step to the idea of printing directly on to tinplate. The new process of offset lithography, patented in 1877 allowed multicoloured designs to be printed on to exotically shaped tins.
The most exotic designs were produced in the early years of the 20th century, just prior to the First World War. In the 1920s and 1930s, costs had risen substantially and the design of biscuit tins tended to be more conservative, with the exception of the tins targeted at the Christmas market and intended to appeal primarily to children. The designs, generally speaking are a barometer of popular interests.
The advent of the Second World War stopped all production of decorative tin ware and after it ended in 1945, the custom never really revived.