13 December 1946

Tommy tin launched

The first ‘Tommy Tins’ were sold on this day in 1946: special biscuits in a cylindrical tin with a soldier painted on the side and a lid shaped as a tin helmet. Different biscuits had different uniforms, and these would become highly sought-after in later years. Two pence from every tin sold was donated to services charities.

Biscuits were rationed and hard to come by after the war, and regarded as treats. A common piece of advice found in women’s magazines involved using the ‘Tommy Tin’ to fend off unwelcome advances from ‘frisky’ husbands. As Woman's Wisdom agony aunt Margaret Robinson wrote later: ‘The idea was that you tapped the Tommy Tin, and hubby would be so excited by the prospect of a biscuit that it would distract him. By the time he’d eaten it, he’d have forgotten all about the other business.’

This scene from Arnold Wakely’s Kipling and Custard (a satire on stifling suburban conformity, broadcast as The Wednesday Play in 1965) said he chose the tin as a ‘symbol par excellence of frigidity and repression'…

Tommy tins were the housewife's friend

KIPLING AND CUSTARD

Interior: suburban sitting room

Mrs Johnson:

Sugar?

Mrs Amiss:

Yes please.

Mrs Johnson:

Biccy?

Mrs Amiss

Thank you…

[slight clinking]

…Oh, is that a Tommy Tin?

Mrs Johnson:

Yes!

Mrs Amiss [laughing]:

Good heavens, I haven’t seen one of those for years!

Mrs Johnson [defensively]:

Well, they’re very good for keeping biscuits in…

Mrs Amiss [apologetically]:

Oh, yes, I didn’t mean… It’s just that…

Mrs Johnson:

What?

Mrs Amiss:

Well… You know…

Mrs Johnson:

What?

Mrs Amiss:

You must remember that song…

Mrs Johnson:

Which song?

Mrs Amiss:

‘Trust Old Tommy Tin’

Mrs Johnson:

No…

Mrs Amiss:

After the war, when the men came back…

Mrs Johnson: [slightly alarmed]:

Whatever do you mean?

Mrs Amiss:

Well, you know, if they got fresh…

Mrs Johnson:

What about it?

Mrs Amiss:

Well, biscuits were scarce, what with the rationing…

Mrs Johnson:

What of it?

Mrs Amiss:

Well, if hubby started, you know… you took out the Tommy Tin, and took his mind off…

[Long pause.]

Mrs Johnson [indignantly]:

Well really!

[She stands up suddenly and begins tidying up the tea cups.]

Picture: Flickr

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