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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Toby or not Toby, That is the Question!

This evening while watching TV over dinner, I chanced apon an antiques programme that showed the making and history of that quintessential English beer related item, the Toby Jug, or Toby Mug, and I wondered why I'd never thought to write a KMSA blog on them before, and then in a pause of deja vu, I wondered if I actually had. Still it was interesting researching these fun items and in doing so I discovered a startling twist to the whole story, that I will reveal at the end of the blog and sit back and await confirmation from the FF's, to see if it is true, or just a figment of Wikipedias imagination.

Toby jugs are popular around the world and always associated with England. Many English Pubs have adopted the name. The first Toby Jug, was developed and popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760s. It is thought to be a development of similar Delft jugs that were produced in the Netherlands. Similar designs were produced by other potteries, first in Staffordshire, then around England, and eventually in other countries.

It was a jovial, seated, male figure, with a mug in his hand and a tricorn hat which made a pouring spout. He was dressed in clothes of the time; a long coat with low pockets, waistcoat, cravat, knee breeches and buckled shoes.

No one really knows why he was named 'Toby' although it is possible he called after Sir Toby Belch a character in Shakespeare's Twelth Night. Or maybe it was after a song popular in 1761, around the time the jug was first produced in a traditional, brown salt glaze version. The song 'Brown Jug' featured 'Toby Fillpot'. and they are also sometimes known as a Fillpot (or Phillpot)

For the purposes of the blog I have stayed with the photos of the classic antique Toby's, but naturally, in a commercial world an endless parade of Toby style characters have been created since; from Hitler to Santa Claus, and covering every possible feature and famous face inbetween.

Jugs depicting just the head and shoulders of a figure are also referred to as Toby Jugs, although these should strictly be called "Character Jugs".

So this is where I unveil my intriguing twist, because in the Wikipedia account of Toby Jugs ( under Jugs ) it claims that...... " Toby Jugs are collectible". and that "Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the most high-profile collector of Toby Jugs, with his collection said to be the largest in North America." (Is this actually True???? I ask my esteemed drinking friends in Hoosier land) If it is it is an amazing beer related fact, if it is not then i have found my first Wikipedia falsehood.

That aside....The American Toby Jug Museum is located on Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, if you boys are ever up that way.

So I am now on the hunt in flea markets to find a quality original Toby Jug, in which to put my ale, and toast the long line of drinkers from down the years.

Sir Dayvd Belch of Oxfordshire


  1. RE: Payton Manning.

    He called me up right after the Super Bowl loss and wanted to know if I wanted to go to his place for a beer and pick my brain on ways that he can improve his game. I said, "Sure!"

    Then he mentioned something about fondling one of Toby's Jugs. I thought, who is this Toby guy and why the hell would I want to fondle one of his tits?!

    That was just too weird for me.
    So, I told him he was a big fat loser and I hung up.

    Now that I've seen this blog, I know what a Toby Jug is. Damn.

    Sir Bowie "Now Payton won't talk to me" of Greenbriar

    P.S. Darn, something else to try to collect!

  2. I never knew these were called Toby's. Also, Toby Jugs, I had several as a child: Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Santa Claus. Don't know where they are now?

    I'll research the Peyton Manning question. Also, my next trip to Chicago, I'll stop by the Toby museum.

    In the meantime, check out Sir Bowie's creation in the post below.


    Sir Hook the Toby of Jugs of Warrick

  3. After watching them being made on TV..i can see why they are so collectable, maybe its their extra useable function of holding beer rather than just an ornament.

    So my mission this year is to buy a blue coated one as a Jug and one as a mug... preferably one over a hundred years old, as i do like the thought that some old time drinker loved using it too.

    Yeah Bowie did a good job on the i said to him, as soon as i picked it i realised the original looked a lot like us three in London:)
    ....but it was in the early hours of the morning when i wrote the blog and forgot to do the photoshop. Great Minds think alike eh? Bowie.

    Sir D of O