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Caricatures in Pottery
The name "Toby" seems to have been early associated with conviviality. There was Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night who was fat, boisterous, given to hard drinking and staying out nights; there was Toby Shandy in Laurence Sterne's Tristam Shandy, published in 1760; and the next year appeared an English print with verses describing
"Old Toby Philpot, as thirsty a soul As e'er drank a bottle or fathomed a bowl."
It is believed that John Voyez, the sculptor, who worked in Staffordshire for many years, modeled the early type of toby jug from this print. These jugs were a noted creation of Ralph Wood. Toby jugs in a variety of forms were popular from the 1760's until late in the nineteenth century and were widely made by various English potteries as well as by a few in America. The typical toby is a comic depiction of a short fat fellow, comfortably seated, with a jug on his knee and wearing a three-cornered hat . Sometimes he has a pipe as well as a jug, and sometimes his faithful dog is crouched at his feet.
Most of the Ralph Wood tobies were of this sort, but he also produced his "Thin Man," "Gin Woman," "King Hal," and the "Hearty Good Fellow," the latter a smiling urbane figure with jug and pipe. Ralph's cousin, Enoch Wood, also made toby jugs, such as "Night Watchman," and a standing representation of Benjamin Franklin taking a pinch of snuff.
Other Staffordshire potters who made these jugs included Whieldon, John Davenport, David Wilson, Lakin and Poole, Palmer and Neale, and Pratt of Fenton. Nor were all the tobies masculine. In addition to Ralph Wood's "Gin Woman," there was the famous "Martha Gunn," made by Davenport about 1820, which took its name from the nursemaid of the infant Prince of Wales. A female toby was also made in Rockingham brown. Another, known as "Toby's Wife," represented a seated woman wearing a tall mob-cap.
As time went on the subjects varied widely from the original. In addition to genre and allegorical figures, there were such historical ones as Nelson, Napoleon, Wellington, Howe, and the Duke of York. There were also severar versions of John Bull. Sometimes he was shown with one arm akimbo for a handle and the other uplifted to form a spout; sometimes he sat stiffly with one hand on his knee, the other hanging loosely at his side. The name of the subject sometimes appears on the base; sometimes there is a date, but not often is the maker's mark present.
The most colorful tobies were made in Staffordshire, but excellent ones were produced at Roclcingham in the characteristic brown. American-made tobies were also of this type and were turned out at Bennington and similar potteries.
The usual size for antique toby Jugs is about ten inches in height, though smaller ones and even condiment pots, made in. Staffordshire until well into the nineteenth century, are tn be found. Demand by collectors for these amusing old jugs began early in the twentieth century and many reproductions have resulted. Among them, tobies of blue and white Delft were made in Holland in the early 1920's. There are also present-day tobies of such prominent personalities as Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, General MacArthur, and Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery.