The bread crumber dates back to the Victorian Era (1837-1901) when dining was always 'fine' and a grand event for the aristocratic set.
The crumber was first invented and used in fine restaurants in order to evacuate bread crumbs from the table in a quick and clean manner by brushing or scraping the crumbs into a tray or other receptacle. Both brushes and scrapers were used to push the crumbs into a vessel and dispatch with them before they hit the floor. Crumbing the table also maintained the aesthetic of the beautifully set table and preserved the life of the tablecloth.
The crumber evolved and several different types were created and patented. The best known of these was invented in 1939 by John Henry Miller, owner of a restaurant on West Fayette Street in Baltimore. His crumber, a scraper rather than a brush, was intended to be carried "conveniently in the pocket", and less conspicuous than the brush and pan customarily used to remove crumbs after a meal.
Diners in the 'finer' establishments soon came to expect any crumbs on their table would be quickly removed and carried away by the serving staff. As the Victorian Era came to a close, so too did the widespread use of the bread crumber. The tradition has, however, carried on in many fine restaurants around the world as well as in homes to help preserve the life of the tablecloth and prevent crumbs or other food bits from hitting the floor.
Bread Crumbers are also a great way to start an interesting conversation about the Victorian Era!
High Plains Museum, Goodland, Kansas
A Brief History of the Bread Crumber by Gloria Dawson