2017-03-15 / Arts & Entertainment News

Pitcher this: A Toby find that smiles across the ages

COLLECTOR’S CORNER

I remember the first Toby jug I bought.

It depicted a little fat man holding a mug.

It could not have been more than 3 inches high and, though crudely painted, had the most beautiful cobalt blue glaze on its coat. I found it in an antiques shop in North Fort Myers and probably still have it somewhere, if I dig around.

I thought it was an antique at the time, but it was marked “England,” so I know now that it was made after the 1890s and would not have been considered an antique at the time.

Ah, the things you learn.

I’m sure my fascination with pieces like that stemmed from my love of history.

It didn’t hurt that Maas Brothers, Jordan Marsh, Burdines and other department stores of the day carried Royal Doulton mugs depicting historical characters, including British monarchs.

The mugs depicting Henry VIII and his six wives especially appealed to me after I had seen Glenda Jackson in the “Elizabeth R” TV series in the early ’70s — the mugs depicting Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard bore handles in the shape of axes as a reminder of their fates.


Toby jug is elaborately painted. It has a wishbone shaped handle and one can pour from the pitcher the lady is holding. 
SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY Toby jug is elaborately painted. It has a wishbone shaped handle and one can pour from the pitcher the lady is holding. SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY Those pieces were vividly painted and caught my 10-year-old eye, but were out of my price range. They were new, but from a tradition that dated back to the mid-18th century.

Toby jugs, also known as Fillpots or Philpots, usually had the form of a seated person holding a vessel from which liquid could be poured. Toby mugs usually were just the head, and often were caricatures of real folks.

And the name?

“Most likely, it was named after a notorious 18th century Yorkshire drinker, Henry Elwes, who was known as ‘Toby Fillpot’ (or Philpot) and was inspired by an old English drinking song, ‘The Brown Jug,’ which paid tribute to Toby Fillpot, whose ashes were made into Toby’s jug,” according to the American Toby Jug Museum’s website.

So now you know, and so do I. ¦

THE FIND:

A Toby jug

The place: Resale Therapy, 4595 Northlake Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens; (561) 691-4590 or www.resaletherapyshoppe.com.

Cost: $20

The skinny: The experts I know were pretty evenly divided as to whether this jug was made in England or Germany. Typically, the English marks are clearly defined, especially on later 19th century pieces such as this ample lady, who sits with a jug on her knee ready to pour milk.

This bears no marking, other than an impressed “CF” on its bottom. That marking could indicate Charles Ford, who was in business in England between 1874 and 1904, according to ThePotteries.org, which gives a history of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, where so many English wares were made.

I was worried that it was a reproduction. The bottom is immaculate, with none of the marks one would associate with something that had a century of use.

“It has honest wear,” said my friend, Jacksonville antiques dealer Jim Antone, who also manages the floor at the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival. He noted that the gold trim on the wishbone-shaped handle was slightly worn, though the rest of the piece was immaculate.

No matter, the piece has a great look and looks great with my collection of English porcelains and ceramics. ¦

Return to top