Nutcracker Museum

People are acquainted with stamp and coin collectors. Numismatics and Philately are oft-heard lexis. As children, many of us, at least the earlier Gens, were collectors (aka scavengers) of feathers, leaves, shells, and more.

A ‘nutcracker museum!’ I squealed in delight.

To a layman, a nutcracker is a tool used to crack nuts, lobsters, and crab shells open. They come in varied designs, which include levers, screws, and ratchets. What about the Nutcracker?

‘The Nutcracker Museum,’ originally with the private collection of Arlene and George Wagner opened its doors in 1995 at Leavenworth, Washington State of the USA, when Arlene and George wanted to “share the enjoyment that nutcrackers can bring.”

Photo Courtesy: Hema Ravi (Inside The Nutcracker Museum, August 19, 2023)

The town center of Leavenworth was modeled on a German Bavarian village, as part of a civic initiative in the sixties. This town attracts visitors throughout the year, offering sumptuous food for the body, mind, and soul.  All the tourists are magnetically attracted to the Nutcracker Museum.

With over 7000 nutcrackers ranging from the Archaic period to the present, the Nutcracker Museum offers an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. Man’s ‘ingenuity’ with a simple task such as opening a nutshell has brought along the evolution of nutcrackers with such ‘diversity of materials,’ ‘design’ and ‘mechanism’ – from the ‘nutting stone’ of early inhabitants to the ‘ever popular wooden toy soldier nutcracker of today.  To add to the personal collection of a charming couple, several others donated their collections; most were from families of deceased collectors. They have all been acknowledged in the museum is what we observed.

One interesting question is, when did the ‘nutcracker’ become associated with hundreds and thousands of people in America, Europe, and elsewhere?

Several happenings perhaps, but the following would have proved to have a catalytic effect by arousing people’s interest in making, buying, and gifting nutcrackers as collectibles: In 1816, Prussian author ETA Hoffmann’s ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse Kin,’ in which Marie Stahlbaum’s favourite toy the ‘Nutcracker’ comes alive, defeats the evil Mouse King, and takes her to the magical ‘kingdom of dolls.’


Photo Courtesy: Hema Ravi

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer of the Romantic period, wrote some of the renowned concerts and theatrical classical music, which included ‘The Nutcracker.’ Yet another interesting fact is that Erzgebirge folk art was synonymous with nutcrackers.  And those nutcrackers had images of kings, soldiers, and gendarmes (police officers) as models.

About the Nutcracker Museum: “just as Clara in the ballet became entranced with the wooden figure with the big teeth,” so did Arlene, who started her collection of toy soldiers as a child.

We strolled around the Bavarian-style Museum, hypnotized by the statues in the glass.  Although I am not aware of a term for a collector of nutcrackers, I gathered that ‘the nutcracker lady’ Arlene Wagner, in 2022, had officially held the largest collection of nutcrackers in the world with 9103 nut cracking devices!

Wow! Isn’t that a ‘cracking’ good collection?

Hema Ravi

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