Monday, March 16, 2015

The Toby Jug

When regular tv programming has little to offer, I have started to turn to the H&I network, Heroes and Icons, to see some of the shows that were popular in the 1960's. And frankly, they are good STORIES. They may not feature all the special effects of tv nowadays, but the plots are character driven, and they are kind of addicting. My particular favorites are Combat! which ran from 1962-67, and Twelve O'Clock High (64-67). Combat is in black and white, a WWII drama of those army men who survived D-Day, and are infiltrating into France to eliminate the Nazi threat. Twelve O'Clock features the WWII U.S. army air corps stationed in England, making bombing raids over the channel to France and Germany.

In Twelve O'clock, every so often you see a scene within the officer's club where the men go to relax, have a drink, sing a song. (They are not watching tv, or playing video games! haha). On a mantle above a large fireplace, there is a large ceramic mug that has a face on it. An officer will come in, walk over to the mantle, and turn the mug either face in or out. I was intrigued. I was talking with my brother who is a military buff, and has seen every movie of this kind. He explained to me about the mug, and I looked it up! Ahh! there is a connection with the 18th Century.

The mug is called a "Toby Jug" and refers to a ceramic pitcher, formed in the shape of a person. The name "Toby" is illusive, but these pitchers became a popular art form in England in the 18th Century. They were usually used in pubs as a water pitcher.
The Staffordshire potters of the 1760's are credited with their development. The Toby Jug is sometimes called a Fillpot or Philpot. Sometimes the person it depicts is seated in typical 18th Century attire, with tricorne hat, pipe in hand, etc, but  often it is just the head, and some part of the hat, for example, forms the handle.

Some folks say the name Toby came from the character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch, an intoxicated and jovial man.

In the film Twelve O'clock High, the Toby is one depicting Robin Hood, and plays a pivotal role as it was a way to alert the crews of an upcoming mission, without outsiders knowing what was about to take place. The Toby in the film was made by Royal Doulton, circa 1947. Based in fact, RAF flyers from WWI used to "turn the Toby", a mission code, which was later adopted by the flyers in WWII.  

I am a military buff too, and now I want one of those jugs. I have been looking on line but there are none to be had, even a replica. I found one at auction, but it was way too expensive, and the auction was closed anyway. Well, it's something to keep in mind when antique hunting. meanwhile, if you want to see one, rent the movie! It's really good!

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