Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Alcoholic English Origins of "Tom and Jerry"

How did Tom and Jerry come to get their names?

When I give talks on the history of Hertfordshire newspapers I usually include a few snippets of old news which I hope will amuse the audience. I often use the following 1829 news item from just over the Buckinghamshire border which refers to the activities of a couple of drunks as a "Tom and Jerry" freak"

Francis Fisher and Thomas Collins appeared before the Aylesbury Magistrates court and the "Tom and Jerry freak" involved breaking windows  and forgetting "that the aforesaid breakage, which they undoubtedly thought sport, was likely to be regarded very differently by the party aggrieved."

Life in London
A quick investigation revealed that the book Life in London; or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq, and his elegant Friend, Corinthian Tom, in their rambles through the Metropolis was written by Pierce Egan and was first published in parts starting in October 1820. It became very popular nationwide and within a year there was a Tom and Jerry play on the stage in London. 

But could there really be some link between the activities of  two 1820s fictional London toffs and antics of the cartoon cat and mouse duo created in America in 1940?  It was nice to speculate but I left the question unanswered until it surprisingly came up in conversation last week.
A "Tom & Jerry"

At a family gathering in a restaurant in London the bartender came especially over to the table to speak to my Canadian daughter-in-law. He had prepared her cocktail and wanted to say that in ten years this was the first time anyone had ordered a "Tom and Jerry." The ensuing conversation - and a subsequent check on the internet provided the missing link.

The key link would seen to be the fact that to publicize the book and play Egan introduced a "Tom and Jerry" drink which was an eggnog with a dash of brandy. Undoubtedly this helped to keep the memory of "Tom and Jerry" alive in the United States. The drink was recorded by famous American bartender "Professor" Jerry Thomas who wrote one of the earliest guides entitled How to Mix Drinks in 1862 and is reputed to have kept a pair of mice named Tom and Jerry. From then on a "Tom and Jerry" became a regular feature of the American Christmas celebrations - although the original Corinthian Tom and Jerry Hawthorn were less well remembered in England.

Between 1931 a series of short cartoons were made by Van Beuren of a pair of men, one big and the other small, which may in some way related back the original pair. However in 1940 there was the first release of a cartoon, by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera of the cat and mouse figures we all know today.

1 comment:

  1. I knew that the Tom & Gerry cartoon went back a great many years but I had no idea that it went back THAT far, and it's quite funny to think that it is somehow linked to alcohol - though that link does seem a little vague!


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