Early mentions of a nut-cracking tool appear  in The Canterbury Tales.  King Henry VIII gave a pair of nutcrackers to his beloved Anne Boleyn, (and one can only wonder why…)  Among the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci was a large press to be powered by horses.  Throughout time no one method or device was consistently prevalent, while the search for an adequate nutcracker saw many different machines being designed to resolve this pressing problem.
So sometime during the late 17th century German woodworkers began to carve a version of what we have come to recognize today, being the soldier-figures.  Initially these first German nutcrackers took their place among Christmas themed children’s toys, primarily given as gifts at holiday celebrations, not only at Christmas, but in regions of Great Britain and Scotland where Halloween was known for a time as Nutcrack Night.
Eventually the makers of these nutcrackers took them to sell in other regions and countries, as they had saturated the German market and had to extend further to continue sales.
The biggest boon to the German-designed nutcracker was when Peter Tchaikovsky put on the now-famous ballet, the Nutcracker, featuring the nutcracker of German design.  Due to moderate success of the ballet at the time, the nutcrackers continued to remain somewhat regional.  Sometime during the mid-20th century, Tchaikovsky’s ballet performance-area greatly expanded and, as a result, the Nutcracker wowed American audiences with much success.
 
WWI GIs, in search of gifts to send home, helped keep the sales of these German-designed nutcrackers going strong.  Once introduced to America, the basic soldier design moved aside for an avalanche of differently-themed nutcrackers, from mailmen to likenesses of famous people and objects.  Be sure to check out Disney’s Sea World Christmas Nutcrackers, featuring a Dolphin, an Orca Whale, a Penguin and a Polar Bear
Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, located in Washington State,is home to more than 4,000 nutcracker figurines.  Today, we tend to think of them as decorative Christmas nutcrackers, and we buy our nuts from the store, already cracked.