Stories abound about the origin of the toby jug. It was supposedly named after Toby Fillpot, an 18th-century British drinker whose real name was Harold Elwes. His claim to fame was that he had downed over 2,000 gallons of “strong ale” at his local pub. Some say his drinking name of Toby was filched from the Shakespeare character Toby Belch.
Sometime in the early 19th century, the English potter Royal Doulton began making a commemorative mug of an incredibly ugly guy with a tri-corner hat and an alcohol-scarred visage it christened the “Toby Jug.” One poured from a corner of the hat, which served as a spout.
These jugs caused a sensation in the 19th century in both England and America, emblazoned with all sorts of figures, whose only common feature was their extreme ugliness. Although these vessels were usable as mugs or pitchers, depending on size, they were usually merely displayed in cupboards and on sideboards, and eventually became collector’s items, often auctioned at high prices. Beginning in the 20th century, the form was used for commemorative figures. In the modern era, these have included the Beatles and Winston Churchill.
So, if you dare, come with us now into the Fork in the Road virtual museum of the world’s ugliest jugs.
Next: It gets worse!
Next: The four ugliest toby jugs of all.