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What Is A Toby Jug

Updated on November 7, 2014

Toby Jug By Ralph Wood The Younger

This is a classic toby jug made by Ralph Wood the younger.  He and his father both contributed greatly to the toby jug movement.
This is a classic toby jug made by Ralph Wood the younger. He and his father both contributed greatly to the toby jug movement. | Source

Toby Jugs And Philpots (Fillpots)

Toby jugs are drinking vessels and pitchers commonly found from the 17th to the 20th century. The jugs are also known as philpots and are thought to be named after Sir Toby Belch from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or the drunken character Toby Philpot from the old bar song "Little Brown Jug".

Traditional toby jugs were made in the likeness of a person and can be standing or seated on a barrel. The figures are dressed in the attire of the 17th century and the outfits include tricorn hats, long frock coats and frilly bow ties. Over the years the toby jug movement came to include other forms such as face mugs and more modern subjects like kings, political figures and John Barleycorn.

There are some common features to classic toby jugs. These include a pour spout built into the hat, a handle and a lid built into the hat. The hat usually doubles as a cup and is usually badly damaged if its even still with the jug. Classic jugs are earthen ware with one of a variety of natural glazes including lead and salt glazes.

These jugs were common in taverns and were used to serve beer, ale, whiskey and other spirits. Toby jugs are akin to the modern day growler, 40 oz, handle or jug of beer/spirits. The nature of the vessel shows its intent. The handle, pour spout and cup make it an easy and self contained service for one.

Toby Jug In Classic 17th Century Dress

Toby Jugs were made by over 200 different manufacturies at the height of the movement.
Toby Jugs were made by over 200 different manufacturies at the height of the movement. | Source

What Is A Jug And What Is A Mug

There can sometimes be confusion when telling the difference between a jug and a mug, especially with some of the more modern Tobies. The current definition for a Jug is this:

Jug (definition) - A jug is a type of vessel used for holding liquid. Liquids are poured or drunk directly from the jug. Jugs are characterized by a narrow opening, handle and pour spout. Historically jugs have been made out of earthenware, ceramics, glass and now plastic. The word jug has also been used to describe lowly maidservants and large bottles of beer. In some parts of the world a jug of beer is a quart or liter sized bottle usually shared by more two more.

Mugs are similarly defined but lack the pouring spot. Mugs are meant to be drunk from and are not usually for sharing. Jugs, while sometimes used for drinking, are meant to hold enough tasty beverage for two or more to share.

Other Styles Of Toby Jugs

Toby Jugs have been popular for over 250 years. At the height of the industry there were over 200 potteries and factories making toby jugs. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of easily recognizable styles of toby jugs from at least two continents. Here is a short, very short, list of some other popular styles and subjects of toby jugs.

  • Cowboys, Samurai, Military, War Hero
  • Political Figures, Kings, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan
  • 17th Century Characters, Man On A Barrel, Squire
  • Serving Girls, Tavern Wenches, John Barleycorn (Whiskey)


Who Made Toby Jugs

At the peak of toby jug popularity there were well over 200 makers. The fanciful and artful pottery captivated the imaginations of potters in England, across Europe and into the Americas. The first toby jugs were produced by the Staffordshire Potteries in the 1760's. Other early and influential English potteries included Royal Doulton and Wedgewood & Co. Some of the earliest and best known potters creating original toby jugs are:

  • John Astbury
  • Thomas Whieldon
  • Ralph Wood The Elder and The Younger
  • Enoch Wood
  • Thomas Hollins
  • William Pratt

"Jug In The Form Of A Head"

Paul Gaugin's "Jug In The Form Of A Head" is a classic example of a face mug.
Paul Gaugin's "Jug In The Form Of A Head" is a classic example of a face mug. | Source

Jug In The Form Of A Head

"Jug In The Form Of A Head", or the "Jug Self Portrait", is a well known face mug created by French post-impressionist artist Paul Gaugin. The self portrait is an expression of turmoil Gaugin was feeling following his witnessing two tragic acts. The first, witnessing Vincent Van Gough cutting off his own ear; The second, witnessing a public beheading.

You can see in the facial expression a man deep in thought. The bloody neckline and hacked off ear pay homage to the two traumatic events in his life.

Early Pratt Ware Toby Jug, Circa 1790

This is a rare and very early Pratt toby jug depicting Bacchus, God of Wine.
This is a rare and very early Pratt toby jug depicting Bacchus, God of Wine. | Source

The American Toby Jug Museum

The American Toby Jug Museum is a great place to spend the afternoon. It is the largest and best collection of toby jugs in the US. The collection includes specimens of some of the earliest and most sought after jugs. They also have a full collection of toby jugs spanning the history of the art form. The museum is located in Evanston, Illinois and has free admission.

American Toby Jug Museum - 910 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois

Phone Number - 1-877-862-9687

Admission is free. Open on Tuesday and Thursday from 10AM to 4PM or by appointment.

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      LisaKeating 3 years ago

      Great information. I have a few Toby jugs in my collection. Thanks for the interesting article.

    • profile image

      AYDIN EZEN 4 years ago

      SEE A LARGE COLLECTION OF 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY TOBY JUGS HERE: www.aydinezen.com

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