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Cookie/Dough Shaping Chronology

by Phyllis Wetherill

(Written in 1994)

The dates which follow are approximate and should be used as a framework through which one can think about cutter development, a framework to be modified as information becomes available.

At some time in the history of mankind, people began shaping dough. Exactly what was done and when it was done is not recorded. Obviously, crude stamps with designs could have been made from clay near the river. Sweets could also be shaped by hand, beginning with a small ball of dough and stretching, pinching, folding, etc., according to the plan of the baker.

  • 2000 B.C. - Ceramic molds made in Egypt and Mesopetania.

  • 1475 A.D. - Earliest cookie cutter known was made.

  • 1500 - Intricately carved wooden molds were well developed in mid-European regions.

  • 1650 - Cookies cutters may begin to appear. Cookies without imprinted designs are easier to decorate than those made on exquisite molds.

  • 1750 - The cookie cutter existed apart from the carved mold. At the end of the century, after tinned metal reached the United States, tinsmiths begin making cutters.
  • 1850 - By this year or before, the development of machinery progressed to the point that interest could turn to the manufacture of cookie cutters. The first known documented catalog offering cutters is dated 1869. (Dover) By the turn of the century, many manufacturers offered cutters wholesale through catalogs. Retail catalogs also offered manufactured cookie cutters.
  • 1905 - Tinsmithing began to wane as cutters were both manufactured in the United States and imported from Europe, primarily from Germany. Advertising cutters were used by companies to proclaim their products.
  • 1920 - Cutters were made in large quantities from aluminum.
  • 1940 - Plastic cutters began to be made. Toward the end of the decade, the Educational Products Company began the manufacture of their 100,000.000 cutters.
  • 1950 - Plastic and metal cutters continued to be manufactured. During the Korean Conflict, scrap plastic was used to make cutters. Colors were mixed together, and marbleized cutters resulted.
  • 1970 - During this decade, the numbers of different designs as well as choice of styles of design increased. Tinsmiths and other crafts people re-established the art of cookie cutter making. Hallmark began their manufacture of plastic cutters. Several woodcarvers began to make carved wooden molds in the United States. An electric cookie press was developed. Developments in the United States were paralleled in Europe. The Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club was founded.
  • 1980 - The numbers of cookie cutters purchased rose swiftly, possibly because of an increase of spendable income. Antique cutters steadily increased in value. Collecting cutters replaced other hobbies for both men and women. The number of people collecting cutters also increased to the point that cutters became scarce. In the 1970’s, the number of women tinsmiths was one or two. In the 1980’s tinsmithing attracted women as well as men. The finances of cookie cutter making were such that manufacturers steadily looked for places to have cookie cutters made less expensively. Having cutters made in Japan gave way to Taiwan and then to Hong Kong and finally to China and Malaysia.
  • 1990 - Distributing companies on both sides of the Atlantic bought cutters from the same source and put their names on them. Identical sets of plastic cutters can be purchased with different company names. This phenomena had occurred earlier in the century when manufactured cutters from Germany and Czechoslovakia were sold in the United States under different names.

Since Phyllis wrote this in 1994 the following event has forever changed not only cookie cutter collecting but collecting in general.

  • 2000 - Ebay becomes a household world. The world's biggest online auction has established itself and sellers now use this medium to reach more collectors than ever before possible. You can sit at your computer and see listing of items for sale from the farthest parts of the globe. Collectors who used to be limited by not having the ability to travel are now on equal footing with anyone else in the world. This has led to the creation of a whole new market of "designer" cookie cutters, one-of-a-kind creations aimed at the collector and selling for very large prices.