Jacob’s Biscuit Factory in Dublin: the historic home of the cream cracker

lorry with large orange trailer with words Jacobs Cream Crackers

The Jacob’s factory in Dublin is an icon of Ireland’s industrial heritage. The blog, illustrated with newly digitised material from Dublin City Library and Archive, tells the history of the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, home of the cream cracker.

The Jacob family were Quakers from Waterford, who had been in the baking trade for some time before they started making ‘fancy’ biscuits. William and Robert Jacob obtained a new premises in 1850 and announced that they would thenceforth be adding fancy biscuits to their range of goods. Within a very short time, business was thriving.

A move to Dublin, the distribution centre of Ireland, became a necessity. By 1853, W & R Jacob’s were operating out of a premises on Peter’s Row in the Liberties area of Dublin.

In 1885, the famous Cream Cracker was invented, and quickly became the company’s best seller. In fact, in 1893, six tins of Cream Crackers were ordered by Prince Frederick Leopold of Germany.

Jacob’s continued to grow, and in 1912, having run out of expansion space in Dublin, a new factory was opened in Aintree, Liverpool.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin, Jacob’s was witnessing industrial unrest over wages, and by 1913, tensions were high between Jacob’s management and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Jacob’s took a hard line with workers during the lockout that followed, and the dispute caused much bitterness and bad publicity for the firm. Rosie Hackett (after whom one of Dublin’s River Liffey’s bridges is named) was a worker in Jacob’s at the time, and was involved in the lockout. 

The following year, World War I broke out, and many men from Jacob’s enlisted. The firm regularly sent cakes and tins of biscuits to its employees serving overseas. 

The next challenge for Jacob’s arose in the form of the Easter 1916 Rising. The factory –  one of the positions seized by the rebels – was largely unscathed, and although some looting did take place in the aftermath of the rising, the government paid compensation for that.

Business continued to thrive, and when World War II broke out, Jacob’s showed great ingenuity faced with the shortage of supplies, using potatoes as a substitute for flour in some biscuits.

By the 1950s, Jacob’s was considered one of the best places to work in Dublin – the pay was good and staff were well-looked after. There was a swimming pool and recreation room for staff, a savings and pension schemes and both a doctor and dentist were hired by the company, offering free medical attention to staff. There was even an annual Christmas pensioners’ party.

The restrictions on supplies following World War II, and the emergence of Bolands biscuits in Dublin pushed Jacob’s to improve their advertising and public relations. They had many ground-breaking ideas, including associating themselves with the glamorous aviation industry, by sponsoring Radio Eireann’s programme ‘Come Fly with Me’.

1966 saw the merger between Jacob’s and their chief competitor in Ireland, Bolands, and the resultant company was called Irish Biscuits. The new company continued to market biscuits under both brand names.

Two years later, the decision was made to purchase a site in Tallaght, a Dublin suburb, and to move production there. Informing this decision was the fact that many employees had been moved from tenements in the Liberties to Dublin Corporation housing schemes in areas such as Crumlin and Walkinstown. The Tallaght plant officially opened in 1975 and the inner-city Bishop Street closed its doors in 1977.

RELATED: Watch this video: In 1984, Jacobs factory workers gave their time for free to help famine victims in Ethiopia

In 1991, Jacob’s was bought by Danone, and in 2004 by Fruitfield Foods. In 2009, Jacob’s ended production in Ireland after 156 years. 

Jacob’s archives were acquired by Dublin City Library and Archive in 2012.  The 330 boxes contain a wide range of records representing a rich and significant contribution to the study of business and commercial life in Dublin.

RELATED: Explore the full Jacob’s archive from Dublin City Library and Archive on Europeana

By Stephanie Rousseau, Dublin City Library and Archive
With thanks to Dáire Rooney and Kathryn Cassidy, Digital Repository of Ireland

Feature image: Large orange Jacob’s truck with Cream Crackers advertised on its side, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin City Library and Archive, CC BY-NC-ND

7 thoughts on “Jacob’s Biscuit Factory in Dublin: the historic home of the cream cracker

      1. Really enjoyed the blog about Jacobs Biscuit Factory. I was in Dublin June of 2013 and went to the site of the Jacobs Biscuit Factory which is now the National Archives of Ireland. My maiden name is Jacobs and my great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Ireland. I was told by my grandfather, Warren Jacobs, that his ancestors operated a Biscuit Factory in Dublin. I have been doing my family tree and cannot find any information on my ancestors from Ireland. I wonder if you can shed any light on how I could research them.

        1. Hello Marian,

          Did you visit the National Archives to speak to one of the professional genealogists in the free Genealogy Advisory Service? They should be able to assist or guide you in your quest for further information (see http://www.nationalarchives.ie). The service is operating remotely during the current closure due to COVID-19 and you can consult with a genealogist by sending an e-mail to query@nationalarchives.ie. Also, the archives of the Jacobs company are held in the Dublin City Archives (see https://www.dublincity.ie/residential/libraries/heritage-and-history)


  1. I’m a former Dublin girl who grew up loving Jacobs biscuits and for us Christmas is not Christmas without our Afternoon Tea and USA tins of biscuits to share as gifts with our friends. Last year I brought five tins back with me, unfortunately we could not travel home this year due to covid19. My problem is I can’t find a shop that stocks them other than a few specialty shops who charge anywhere from 34 to 40 Euro per tin. My question is can I buy my biscuits direct from the factory? I would appreciate any help you can give me.

    Stay safe and healthy.
    Elizabeth Whelan Schwenk.

    1. Dear Elizabeth, many thanks for your comment, it’s lovely to hear your connection to Jacob’s. It does not look like you can buy their biscuits direct, but perhaps send Jacob’s a message via this page and I’m sure they will reply: https://jacobs.ie/get-in-touch/

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