Crackers themselves are thought to have been invented around 1850, but the inclusion of jokes came much later, in the 20th century. The jokes themselves however, were around long before that. The British Library holds a copy of “The Witling”, a book of conundrums published in 1750. Many newspapers ran a section on conundrums and riddles to entertain readers around the Christmas period. So the answer is - the jokes themselves pre-dated inclusion in crackers by 200 years or more. I even came across that well-known “When is a door not a door” (When it’s a jar), in use in 1816. Here are a few more:
1. If all the alphabet were invited to dinner, why could they not all accept the invitation? (Because 6 of them come after T)
2.Why is a bankrupt like a young devil on an outhouse? (He is imp-over-i-shed)
3. Why is a pig with a curled tail like the ghost in Hamlet? (Because it could a ‘tale’ unfold)
4. What is lengthened by being cut at both ends? (A ditch)
5. When may a man be literally said to be head over heels in debt? (When he wears a hat which is not paid for)
6. Why is a tragedy a more natural performance in a theatre than a comedy? (Because the boxes are always in ‘tears’)
7. What sea would one wish for on a rainy night? (A-dri-atic)
8. Why is a person much troubled with the lumbago like a garrett? (Because he is a rheum-atic)
9. Why is the Lord Chancellor like a taylor? (Because he justifies long bills)
10. When you put on your stockings in the morning, why are you sure to make a mistake? (Because you cannot avoid putting your foot in it)
My personal favourite is this one (published in 1770):
Why is the Navy like Lady Grosvenor? (Because she is miserably manned)
I think this was casting aspersions on the efficiency with which the ship “The Lord Grosvenor” was operated, rather than the manhood of Lady Grosvenor’s husband, but who knows!
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