Thursday, June 29, 2017

English Toby Jugs: Around The World From 80 Countries

Pewter tableware, such as the mug in my last post, was gradually replaced by various types of ceramics as new, more easily decorated types that could be produced at an affordable cost. In 1748 Thomas Frye invented bone china, which used ground up bone ash along with clay to produce a white ceramic material similar to Chinese porcelain. Josiah Spode adapted this process and his commercial success led many others to switch. As no American companies produced bone china until the early 1900s, most of the “good” dishes in American households were imported from in England. The Benton County Historical Museum has many examples of English bone china and stoneware tableware. 

Along with the more traditional tea cups, the collection also contains three examples of “Toby jugs.” The original jugs, produced by Staffordshire potteries in the 1760s, were glazed earthenware (not bone china) and were in the shape of a seated man holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe in the other.  One point of his tricorn hat served as the pouring spout and the crown was a removable cup. A handle protruded from his back. No one knows for sure how they got the name Toby Jugs, but one popular theory is that named for a drinker, Henry Elwes (also known as Toby Fillpot), from a popular song from 1761, The Brown Jug. Another theory is that they are named after Shakespeare's character Sir Toby Belch.  As more potteries began producing similar jugs, other characters were added, such as Thin Man, Squire, Gin woman, Sailor. 

This photograph shows a Mrs. Toby jug from Royal Worcester Works. She wears the typical tricorn hat but unfortunately, and typically, the crown (cup) is missing.
Winston Churchill Toby jug
A revival of interest in Toby jugs (and mugs without a pouring spot) in the early 20th century prompted potteries to expand their lines to include jugs based on real people such as this one of  Winston Churchill by Royal Doulton.  The mug shows him in the traditional Toby jug seated position but with a furled umbrella, not a mug of beer. It depicts him as he looked while serving as Prime Minister of Great Britain (1940-1945 and 1951-1955).

The last item is a Royal Doulton character jug from 1946 which depicts folklore's Robin Hood.  Character jugs are similar to Toby jugs but show only the head or head and shoulders, not the full figure.

Robin Hood Toby jug
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

British Pewter: Around The World From 80 Countries

The last object –the Corvallis College bell-- was made of cast steel.  This mug, also from England, is made of a different metal, pewter.  

Pewter is an alloy of mostly tin with some other metal to harden it.  Originally, producers used lead, but after becoming aware of its health dangers, they switched to an alloy of tin, antimony, and copper. This combination of metals was in use as long ago as the Bronze Age, with the earliest known piece dated at 1450 BCE. This doesn't seem to surprising as both bronze and pewter use the same two metals but in different proportions: bronze is copper with a bit of tin added while pewter is mostly tin with a bit of copper added. 

Britain's large tin deposits are in the Cornwall area. By the 1300s the English were using this tin to make pewter. To regulate the trade, a guild of pewterers was established in 1348. Production expanded and the use of pewter objects -- plates, cups, bowls, teapots, candlesticks, and spoons -- spread from the church and homes of the wealthy to middle-class families. Many taverns used mugs like this or covered tankards; merchants also used pewter measuring cups when selling bulk products. To protect consumers, in 1836, the British government required that pewterers mark the item's capacity; this mug is stamped 1 pint.  An official weights and measures inspector would check that this was correct and stamp a verification mark on the side.  The “GR 485” and “ER 485” stamps on this mug are examples of this practice and, as best as I can tell, indicate that the inspection was made in Wisbech, St. Peter Town, in the county of Cambridgeshire in 1835 or later. 

Pewter has a low melting point and is easily cast using molds.  Because the molds were expensive to make, many pewter objects featured the same basic body with other pieces such as handles or spouts soldered on later. Pewter can also be shaped by hammering. Because pewter is relatively soft metal and can be easily dented, scratched or corroded, craftsmen known as tinkers specialized in repairing or refashioning pewter ware.

As the technology for producing ceramics improved, china plates and cups gradually replaced pewter ware. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Monday, June 12, 2017

Naylor Vickers bells in Oregon

Corvallis College, which operated from 1858 to 1868, had Naylors Vicker Co. bell number 1629 that was the subject of Martha Fraundorf's blog that preceeded this one. Four 19th century church bells made by Naylor Vickers Co. of Sheffield, England, are known to be in Oregon. 

British author George A. Dawson has published a series of books about British-made church bells and he maintains informative databases which are available on his web site ( His North American spreadsheet lists four Oregon bells, all of which date to the era of 1858-1860. In addition to the Corvallis College bell (no. 1629), there is currently one in Eugene, a second at Linfield College, and a third in Jacksonville.

Naylor Vickers bell No. 995 at
Central Lutheran Church, Eugene
Bell number 995 (made in 1859) currently hangs in the courtyard of the Central Lutheran Church in Eugene, across the street from the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery and the University of Oregon campus.

Bell number 889 (also made in 1859) graces the lobby of Riley Hall at Linfield College.  Archivist Rachael Woody wrote about the bell in 2012 (, noting that for over a century “It signaled athletic victories and successful college fund drives. The sound of the bell was heard throughout all of McMinnville”. 

Naylor Vickers bell No. 889, Linfield College,
McMinnville, OR. Photo by archivist Rich Schmidt.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church,
Jacksonville, OR
The third bell has continuously served the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville since 1858. According to Margaret LaPlante's book "Jacksonville" (Southern Oregon Historical Society (c) 2010), "St. Joseph's Catholic Church was dedicated in November 1858.  The bell that beckoned the townsfolk to Sunday mass weighed 297 pounds and was cast in Sheffield, England, and then shipped around the Horn."

Bill Fendall with Blymyer Norton & Co.
bell in Philomath College cupola, 1970's.
All of this bell research inspired me to climb the ladder in the cupola of the Philomath College building. The bell suspended there is also a steel bell but it was made by Blymyer Norton & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio.  In the archive of Benton County Historical Society we found that Lena Coiner Ringland, a student at Philomath College in 1917, wrote that the bell was purchased in 1867 for a sum of $250. The bell called students to classes and for church services. According to Ringland, the students referred to the bell as the “Liberty Bell of the West”.
Philomath College bell at Benton County Museum, Philomath, OR

By Mark Tolonen, BCHS Curator of Exhibitions

Corvallis College Bell: Around The World From 80 Countries

Corvallis College bell at
Benton County Historical Society

This bell was made in England but also has a interesting local connection because it hung in the belfry of Corvallis College the forerunner of Oregon State University.  If it hadn't been so large-- the bell itself is 22 inches in diameter, with the stand adding more-- it would have been a good object to include in the “Around the World...” exhibition.  But it would have replaced a goodly number of other objects so we used some of the collection's other 150 objects from England.

Corvallis College, circa 1870, facing 5th Street
between Monroe and Madison, Corvallis
Bells have called people to church or school for centuries.  Traditionally, bells were made of a special copper-tin alloy called, not surprisingly, bell metal. This metal is like bronze but has a higher tin content (20-22% instead of 12%) to create a more rigid and resonant metal. But Sheffield, England native Tom Vickers had a different idea.

As far back as medieval times, people in the Sheffield area were using charcoal to smelt iron ore and shape it into tools.  By 1700, it had become the center for production of cutlery.  A number of innovations to the iron and steel industries originated in the area, including the use of coal-based coke as a fuel to replace wood-based charcoal, and the development of the crucible process for making steel.  By 1830, Sheffield was established as the leading “Steel City” in England.

The Vickers family and their in-laws, the Naylors, were part of this industrial core, producing crucible steel and operating a rolling mill. They sent Tom and his brother to Germany to study steel-making and there Tom learned of a process of casting steel into molds. A German acquaintance, Ewald Riepe, patented this process in England and as a result, has his name appears on the bell.  In 1855, the Naylor, Vickers company began making cast-steel bells which they sold for about a third the price of traditional bells. This bell – number 1629-- was made in 1860.  In addition to being cheaper, cast steel bells were stronger and were supposed to produce a more powerful sound that carried over longer distances. Although some people did not like the sound of the bells, the company continued to produce and sell them until the 1880s. Of the over 7,000 cast-steel bells they produced, they exported about one-quarter of the bells to the United States. Many, like this one, are still in existence.

To read more about this company and their bells, see

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon