From Yuletide to Yoda, a Nutcracker History

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From Yuletide to Yoda, a Nutcracker History
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet firmly and permanently associated nutcrackers with the Christmas holidays. But nutcrackers have existed long before and long since as serious -- and not-so-serious -- tools to extract protein from obdurate shells. Think nutcrackers are only toy soldiers and Santas? Think again.

Nutcrackers with Plumes
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Nutcrackers with Plumes

A musketeer, sportsman and “rose cavalier” from Nuremberg, Germany. Late 20th/early 21st century; linden and lime wood.

Axe & Ladder
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Axe & Ladder

Otto Ulbricht, son of famed German nutcracker maker Christian Ulbricht, made this Chimney Sweep and Night Watchman in 1980.

King & Town Crier
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

King & Town Crier

A king (left) and town crier were the first nutcrackers made by renowned German woodcrafter Christian Steinbach in 1947.

Santa, a German, a Scot, a Viking & a Shy Naked Man
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Santa, a German, a Scot, a Viking & a Shy Naked Man

The late Jack Frost of Washington state used Alaskan cedar to make Santa and other percussion nutcrackers. Late 20th century.

Napoleon
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Napoleon

This wood/paper mache Napoleon is an early example of a “nussknacker” (German for nutcracker). Thuringia, Germany. 1820.

May the Nutcracker Be With You
Debera Harrell

May the Nutcracker Be With You

Yoda: A very green nutcracker he is.

The Prince, The King & The Friar
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

The Prince, The King & The Friar

Authority figures – a prince, a king and a friar – made by German craftsmen. Screw-type, made of linden; 1800s.

Wizard of Oz
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz characters made by Germany's Christian Ulbricht. Late 20th century of (L-R) linden, beech, birch and mahogany.

Animal Farm
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Animal Farm

An elephant, owl, rooster and pig made by Anri, a group of Northern Italian wood artisans. Cembra pine, early 1900s.

Blue-Eyed Gal?
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Blue-Eyed Gal?

As the handle lifts on this Anri woman, the mouth opens, and the eyes change color from blue to brown.

Meet Karl
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Meet Karl

"Drinking buddy" Karl, a 6-foot-tall wooden nutcracker by German carver Karl Rappl, was custom-made for George and Arlene Wagner, founders of the Leavenworth (Wash.) Nutcracker Museum.

Beer Wagon
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Beer Wagon

A horse-drawn beer wagon nutcracker. The nut is cracked between the upper and lower rows of barrels. Germany, made of linden; 2003.

Hunter & Forest Spirit
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Hunter & Forest Spirit

This Russian nutcracker, "Brave Hunter and Forest Spirit," is made of copper alloy. Early 20th century.

Hanging Gnome Woodsman
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Hanging Gnome Woodsman

Showing nutcracker art's whimsical side, this poor gnome tried to crack a nut and was left hanging. Germany; 1950.

Kissing Couple
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Kissing Couple

This 19th-century “Happy Couple” is a lever-type nutcracker, Swiss-made of conifer. The romantic couple smooch when a nut is cracked.

Woman Carrying Child
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Woman Carrying Child

This elderly woman with child reflects a trend toward more lifelike human forms. Germany, 18th century.

Courtesan
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Courtesan

Detailed face, hair and costume grace this French courtesan. The torso lifts off, revealing the cracking device. France, brass; 1890.

"Open Wide"
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

"Open Wide"

These men seem to be protesting the use of their mouths to crack nuts. England, brass; late 19th/early 20th century.

Green Pelican
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Green Pelican

This brass and enamel pelican was made in Israel. Mid-20th century.

Nutcracker Pooch
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Nutcracker Pooch

This 20th-century Scottie dog of cembra pine was made by Italian Anri artisans.

Kangaroo
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Kangaroo

This kangaroo can crack a hazelnut in its pouch. Its tail is used as a lever. England, iron; 1930.

Nude Lady
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Nude Lady

Sculptural and elegant, this French nude figure is made of silver plate and brass. France; 1900.

Ivory Turn Screw
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Ivory Turn Screw

This eleborate screw-type nutcracker is made of ivory, delicately inlaid with pieces of gold. France; 19th century.

Maharajah's Nutcracker
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Maharajah's Nutcracker

The Maharajah of Jodphpur once owned this royal betel cutter, featuring an eagle design. India, silver with iron blade; 1820.

Crescent Moons with Dog
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Crescent Moons with Dog

A 19th-century dog of lime wood howls at the moon. The Man in the Moon figures are Swiss-made. Conifer, 19th century.

Mad Men
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Mad Men

This expressive duo is dubbed “Contorted Faces.” Looks like they cracked their teeth along with the nuts. France, walnut; 1860.

Man with Woman on Shoulders
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Man with Woman on Shoulders

A man carries a woman on his shoulders in this 19th-century, Swiss-made nutcracker. Those were the days.

King Francis, 1569
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

King Francis, 1569

French King Francis I, dated and showing intricately carved scrollwork on the handle, eyes and beard. France, boxwood;1569.

Merman
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Merman

This merman’s tail lifts to open this unusual nutcracker. Made in England of boxwood, 1600s.

Chimera & Friends
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Chimera & Friends

A bronze chimera poses with some brass animals that can't fly. England, early 1900s.

Nutting Stone
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Nutting Stone

Nutting stones -- the earliest nutcrackers -- are 5,000 to 8,000 years old. The depressions made nuts easier targets.

King on Throne (Neptune)
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

King on Throne (Neptune)

Neptune, god of the sea, cracks small nuts under his toes, large nuts under his throne. France, brass; late 19th century

Iron Horse
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Iron Horse

Made in India, this detailed 19th-century horse is made of brass, with an iron blade for cutting betel or nuts.

Ibex
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum

Ibex

Nuts crack when this ibex (a wild goat) stomps. Its elaborate horn can be used as a handle. Russia, copper alloy; 20th century

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