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

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