A find from the Thames foreshore proved initially to be a bit of a poser for the UKDFD identification team. Nigel Nicholson eventually came up with the definitive answer he had gleaned from an article in the March 1997 copy of The Searcher magazine.
UKDFD 11921 shown below illustrates a white metal die-cast toy variously known as a clicker, cricket or sometimes referred to as a clacker. I remember having one of these shaped as a frog when I was younger. The picture below shows how it was placed in the hand. To make the noise, you pressed down on the metal strip inside the housing and then quickly released it – click-click! I seem to recollect that the versions of my childhood resembled a small plastic box.
Chris Littledale, the founder and director of the Brighton Toy and Model Museum said that these cheap toys were made all over the world for a very long period and this example probably dated from the early 1900’s. The diagram below shows actual size the four elevations of a frog-type clicker.
The maker’s identity can be determined by the initials CR and ‘Paris’. Charles Rossignol (1868-1962) specialised in painted tin clockwork vehicles. Incidentally, but I’m sure that you know, the word BREVETE is French for patent. Although I haven’t seen any of these toys around lately, I am told that dog-trainers use clicker-training to great advantage and is an easy way to train your pet for they don’t require strength or much coordination on the part of the trainer!
Adapted from an article originally published in the UKDFD newsletter Borrowed Times, April 2008. Pencil illustrations by kind permission of The Searcher magazine – March 1997, page 28.
Clickers were first used by marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor as a way of communicating with their animals. Dolphins and whales communicate underwater through a series of clicks and whistles known as echolocation, and the clicker allowed a trainer to produce signals they were more likely to understand.
Nowadays, clickers are used to train all kinds of animals, most commonly dogs. When associated with a treat, a click allows the owner to mark the precise moment the desired behavior is executed.
In WW II clickers were used by Allied paratroopers preceding and during Operation Overlord as a way of covertly identifying friend from foe. A soldier would click once and if two clicks were received in return from an unidentifiable soldier then his identification was confirmed. See HERE
From The Searcher magazine, June 1988 – by Old Yellowbelly
We are referring here to a toy that small children have had fun with for over 100 years. You won’t find it under ‘clicker’ in your dictionary. Its correct name is long been lost but Clicker will do excellently as a substitute. It is a small metal replica of an insect or animal and is fitted with a spring which, when compressed by the finger and thumb and then suddenly released, emits a loud click …
it is believed they originated in France in the late 19th century, and travelled widely and for many years, being particularly common in the period between the wars. Oddly enough … they made in their millions by the Japanese and Germans whose tin toys sold cheaply in the 20s and 30s.
The original ones appeared to be made of a lead alloy with a sprung steel tongue and were quite durable and heavy. A French firm, name unknown but business initials C.R. took out patents and must have enjoyed a monopoly in the 1880s …
Adults quickly found a use of these toys, the commonest being a means of summoning someone to do a particular chore. I can remember attending a Lantern Slide show where the projectionist was signalled by a click from one of these toys every time a new slide was needed stop. This … was around 1928, and mischievous little monsters used to bring their own along and confuse things …
They were also used in schools, and in the forces, though the bulk of them were just another toy for the kids, cheap and cheerful (the toys, not the kids).
Only recently, they were brought to notice again when the film The Longest Day showed American paratroopers using clickers as a means of identification …
What is quite amazing is that the great bulk of our keen detectors have, it seems, never heard of these toys though it is a safe bet that when this article printed, several thousand grot boxes will be re-examined and something will turn up …
‘Hutch’ of the British Metal Detecting forum has told me that my post has solved a mystery for him. One of his found objects has now been identified after reading this blog post. His find also incorporates a whistle. Thank you for allowing me to post the object on here. It is appreciated.
Update 2 – April 2013
I was delighted to see another insect clicker in the shape of a wasp on the Detecting Scotland forum. The finder, Greig Getty has kindly allowed me to show it on here. You must agree that it’s a cracker! … no, a clicker!
Update 3 – 3rd September 2013
Mike Morgan sent me the picture of an artefact that was causing some confusion within the detecting community with ID’s ranging from Roman to Medieval to Victorian. Then he came across my blog and all was revealed. Mike was pleased. I thank him for the picture of the (hare?) clicker and that of the underbelly too, which is so important.
Update 4 – 23rd July 2014
Tartan Wonder of the Detectorist Forum posted to say that he’d found something similar about 5 years ago and thought it was perhaps the lid from a tobacco box. At leas he now has a positive ID! He also supplied 3 great pictures, which I have stitched together.
Update 5 – 24rd July 2014
Hoops McCann from the Detecting Scotland Forum has sent me these fine examples he has found. Thanks for sharing, Hoops.
The pictures below show a relatively modern tin clicker in situ. This is the type I played with when a kid. I forget who supplied these, but If the finder contacts me, then I will add a credit.
This blogpost has not only been resurrected, but more material has been added making it just a little more comprehensive and interesting … well, I think so!
UPDATE MAY 2016
I was surprised and delighted when Dustin Viles of Northeast Wisconsin in the States send me a lovely example of a clicker in the shape of an insect. He tells me:
I found it at an old one room school house location in Northeast Wisconsin-USA that was torn down couple years ago. It is in pretty good shape for how old it seems to be. Plus has some of the metal clicker part still attached on back. I cleaned it up some with a fine brass brush. It has “CRI CRI” across the top and a “A” and either a “O” or a “D” on the side of the cricket.
I suspect, like the first on shown, C.R. is the maker’s name, but that’s just a guess. Thanks to Justin for supplying such a fine example. Now for the perennial detectorist’s (treasure hunter’s) question. “If the clicker was made in Europe (most likely) how come I found it in Wisconsin?”
UPDATE OCTOBER 2017
“Little Instrument of torture”
Oliver Sanftleben contacted me from a German forum and sent me interesting information and pictures of clickers found by forum members.
Here’s what he said:
Ok, here are clickers from three members of our forum, two seem to be identical and one only is not broken. Two were found in the vicinity of Berlin I think and the other I’m not sure. From what I have read in old newspapers they were called here “Cri-Cri” like in Paris, were they came from in September 1876.
Below is what appeared in an Australian newspaper on 10th September 1876 – thanks to Oliver for the inclusion of this useful addition to my blog.
“… An English paper thus describes the Parisian ‘Cri-cri’: — ‘A most horrible, diabolical, deafening little instrument of torture for mortal ears is forming just now the delights of the Parisian ‘gamin,’ and, if the truth must be told, of his betters.
This detestable little ‘joujou,’ invented and patented, one would say, with a design against the drums of Parisian ears, goes by a variety of names. It is called out against in one journal under the denomination of ‘Cri-cri;’ another newspaper anathematizes it as the ‘imp’s castagnette;’ a third appeals to the police to put down the nuisance of the ‘Boulevard frog;’ and the more Press and public remonstrate the more ‘Cri-cri’ grows in popularity.
Its exterior is inoffensive enough; a sort of little brass case measuring about an inch in length, with a thin steel tongue forming a spring. This machine is hidden in one’s pocket or hand, and when the spring is pressed utters a sharp metallic sound prodigious in volume, seeing the snail size of the article. When in practised hands the spring is moved quickly the effect is excruciating. It finds its way in everywhere. In the theatres, railway waiting-rooms, in the streets, in church the ‘Cri-cri’ wags its metallic tongue. It has been the cause of numerous disturbances, notably at the Champs Élysées concert, where the nuisance became so insupportable to the audience, who wished to have their franc’s worth of music and singing in peace, that the police had to be called in to turn out ‘Cri-cri.’
The inventor, it is said, made in a few days 6.000 francs, having sold something like 15,000 ‘Cri-cris’ in that space of time. The retail price is half a franc, and during the ‘fureur’ of the first days itinerant vendors on the Boulevards were besieged at every café they passed, and changed their noisy merchandise into cash with incredible rapidity. Everything must have its day, but the sooner ‘Cri-cri’s’ day is over the better.”