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CHILDREN'S MUGS of the 19th century are interesting to present-day collectors. There are many types of mugs, from those with cheap transfer prints and rhymes and jingles, which are collected as a relic of a passing day rather than for any beauty they may possess, to the fine early decorated creamware mugs of Leeds, Bristol, and Liverpool, as well as a variety in lusterware. The subject matter ranges from early scenes to those of the Kate Greenaway period. Of the twelve hundred mugs in the collection of Margaret H. Jewell, which is on display at the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston, there is hardly a duplicate and there are enough mugs of each type to make the study of the subject complete.
Among the earliest types of children's mugs are the creamware mugs decorated with bands of blue, brown, tan, or olive green together with a name and inscription. Some of them have hand-painted wreaths of light olive-green leaves. On one mug the inscription reads "A Trifle from Yarmouth," and for this reason these mugs have been listed as "Yarmouth type," although, since there was no pottery works in Yarmouth, they were probably made elsewhere. There was, however, a potter at Yarmouth named Absolon who painted creamware made elsewhere and burnt it in his ovens. Since he also painted and sold Bristol glass around 1800, it is likelv that he also bought creamware at Bristol to decorate and that the "Yarmouth type" mugs are Bristol pottery. Other inscriptions include "A Gift for Jinny," "A Gift for William," "A Present for Nancy," "A Present for Sarah," and "For My Sweet Girl." These mugs are rare.
Another type of early child's mug was made of canary-color creamware and decorated with a transfer of black or dull orange-red. Some of them have an oak wreath or a garland of roses and an inscription such as " A Trifle for James"; others have a star enclosing an initial. Still others have a quaint transfer scene such as cows grazing, a Chinese figure, or a scene with mother and children, or a man, boy, and house, and the inscription "For a Good Child." Another group of these early transfers on canary grounds has such inscriptions as "A Carriage for Ann," "A Squirrel for Mary," "A Pony for Edward," "A Harp for Elizabeth," "A New Doll for Margaret," and "A Nightingale for Eliza," together with appropriate and quaint transfer pictures of the animal or object mentioned. Another canary mug has a black transfer with the inscription "Come dear child and let me see how you can do ABC." It has an ABC border around it and is undoubtedly one of the first types of ABC mugs made. Another type of rare and early child's mug was decorated in silver resist on a canary ground. The designs included a bird on a branch, allover geometric patterns, and borders of leaves, scrolls, and bands, in silver resist. One group has bands and a wreath of silver resist on a cream ground and an inscription such as "A Present for Mary," also in silver luster. Classical scenes of mothers and children in red, brown, or black transfer on a canary ground with bands of silver luster form another type. The miniature mugs of silver resist on cream and canary ground are especially rare and attractive. One rare canary creamware mug reads, "To taber and pipe my figures dance Through England, Ireland, Scotland and France." Another group of canary mugs has hand-painted conventional flower borders in greens, pinks, and orange.
Transfer portraits in black upon cream and canary grounds form another small group of mugs. The rarest is the Washington and Lafayette, which was made in about 1824-1825. It is black transfer on a canary ground. The portrait of Adams is also in black transfer on yellow. One rare mug in canary has a transfer in black of an eagle and a laurel wreath. It is attributed to the potter Adams.
The mugs with black transfers and pink luster, or pink-luster decoration alone, seem to be a little later. Besides transfers of scenes of mother and child with pink-luster bands, there were mugs with hand-decorated floral bands in color, and mugs with names and wreaths in black together with pink-luster bands, and mugs with the pink-luster house pattern made in Sunderland. A Sunderland pink-luster mug has the inscription "Forget and Forgive" in a wreath with luster bands. A scene in black transfer of a girl, two men and a dog at a well, and one of "The Gleaners" have pinkluster bands and are marked "Davenport."
There is also a large group of mugs in copper luster. Some of these have transfer patterns and inscriptions, and others have typical copperluster patterns including colored blue, cream, or tan bands, sanded bands, and flowers in relief, or flowers painted in aster and leaf, and other patterns. There are also mugs with six different patterns of Gaudy Welch pottery with luster. These are of ironstone pottery and date about 1840 or 1850.
An interesting creamware mug marked "Phillips & Co. Sunderland Pottery" has a ship and a garland in black transfer and the following verse: Here's to the wind that blows And the ship that goes And the boy that fears no danger A ship in full sail And a fine pleasant gale And a girl that loves a sailor.
Another group of creamware mugs, made before 1840, have a black transfer laurel wreath of the type used by Enoch Wood and the inscription "A present for Mary," for example, or "A Present for my dear boy." Simple creamware mugs of an early type have the names of children painted in black and a hand-painted band. The names include Maria, Cynthia, Isabella, Anne, Sarah, Martha, Margaret, Frances, Eliza, Ellen, Emma, Sophia. Kate, James, John, Charles, Philip, George, and William. The Union of Odd Fellows mug with a shield and the figures of Justice and Truth printed in brown and red is probably early 19th century.
Another group of creamware mugs were hand decorated with sprays of flowers and borders. One of the earliest of these has bunches of roses and yellow flowers with black foliage and a brown painted band at top and bottom. It is marked "Bristol" on the bottom. A creamware mug with a hand-painted green line and the initial K was made at Leeds or Bristol, and a mug with green and orange flowers is probably Leeds pottery. There is also a group of tiny toy mugs with sprigs of flowers of the same type, but they are heavier than Leeds or Bristol and are probably later Staffordshire. One early creamware mug has a black transfer of a bird's nest and children and is probably Liverpool. The various patterns of Mocha ware including checkered designs, seaweed, rope, and cat's-eye patterns, as well as those with simple bands of color, were made in small children's-size mugs.
Blue-and-white pottery mugs with names and inscriptions form another group of children's mugs. Some of these have blue and white bands and a simple medallion with such inscriptions as "A Present for Sarah" or the more unusual "A Trifle shews Respect." Some have a blue-and-white scene covering the body of the mug, and then there are some mugs with the same type of blue-and-white scenes without inscriptions. The blue varies in tone from light to dark, and some mugs are printed in a rich dark blue. One of the most interesting mugs is a little toy mug with a stippled border and the old English potter's rhyme:
No Handycraft can with Our art compare We make our pots of What we are.
Another toy mug worth special mention because of its rarity is the souvenir mug of the New York fire, with the inscription printed in black:
Conflagration City of New York 16th Dec. 1835 700 houses burnt Amount Property destroyed 25,000,000 Dollars Did not affect Public Credit
There are many other toy mugs showing the various activities of children: playing with hoops, fishing, skipping rope, and playing various games. There are also toy mugs painted with flowers, as well as those already mentioned with canary glaze and figures and designs in black and red transfer.
The later type of mugs which are most available today had rhymes and scenes from children's poems, including Br. Watts's Poems for Children, and verses by Jane and Ann Taylor. The scenes were taken from such books as The Boys' Treasury of Sports and Pastimes, which provided the subjects of the game series, and the "Peacock at Home." Franklin's maxims from Poor Richard's Almanack provided the subject matter for another series. The Franklin maxim mugs are among those most sought after today because of their subject matter, although from the costumes on the mugs they are earlier than other mugs of this later illustrative type. These Franklin mugs were made by several different factories and the designs vary as well as the shape of the mugs. Most of them are of a heavy ironstone, but two are of creamware with a pink-luster band. None of them are marked, but we know that plates with Franklin maxims were made at Leeds in 1820 and later by Clews, Meakin, and various other manufacturers. Usually there are two maxims on each mug, but sometimes there are four. One of the maxims most available on mugs is "Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep Thee." The earliest scene illustrating this maxim shows a shop with the name "Donothing" and a "To Let" sign.
An early group of mugs with inscriptions is the series called "Flowers that Never Fade" which includes mugs marked Charity, Kindness, Industry, Liberty, Good Humour, Usefulness, and Generosity. Moral maxims such as "Idleness is the Parent of Want and of Misery," "Industry is Fortunes Handmaid," "Never Speak to deceive, nor listen to betray," and "Want of Punctuality is Lying" have a design around the words and a "Holy Bible" on a tasseled cushion at the top. Other religious verses of four to six lines titled "Praise to God," "Evening Song," "Morning Song," and "Early Piety" are enclosed in wreaths of flowers. Some of these have a line of luster.
Another group of mugs is the Reward of Merit series. These have a variety of labels, including: "A Present for Knitting Well," "For Attention to Learning," "Present for Sewing Well," "Present for Going to School," "Present for Writing Well." There is a miniature or toy plate with the inscription "A prize for Sewing Well" and a scene in brown transfer. One of the prettiest mug series is the Months. Each month has a verse of four lines. The January verse is:
How the rolling seasons Vary Through the years from January When the Infant Smile Awakes On New Year's gifts and sugared cakes.
There is also a series of months marked "The Seasons," but they are of a later date.
There are several series of mugs with boys playing games. The earliest series includes "Ring Taw," "Whip Top," "Pyramid," "Walk My Lady Walk," "Shuttlecock," "Northern Spell," and "French and English." Later games on mugs included blindman's buff, leap frog, and marbles. These were printed in black, brown, red, or blue with crude splashes of red, yellow, and green daubed on. There is also a series of mugs with children and animals such as "Puss' Breakfast," "Little Playfellow" (dog), "Beggar's Petition" (dog), "Billy Button" (horse), and "Bird Catchers." Another series is entitled "Grandma's Tales." There are mugs with Tam o'shanter, John Gilpin, and several types of alphabet mugs, even the deafand-dumb symbols. Most of them have large letters and a picture, and some have a verse with the letter. Of the latter there are at least two series, for one says:
Antique Collecting for Everyone A. was an eagle chained to his perch B. stands for Fanny returning from church. C. was an Emperor who ruled in fear D. was a fiddler who fiddled for beer.
There is also a group of mugs with animals including elephants, tigers. goats, dogs, and all sorts of birds. The lion with a palm tree printed in blue is marked "Davenport," and there is a Davenport mug with a zebra, so we assume that Davenport made an animal series. Another series of animals is printed in brown with splashes of green, red, and yellow paint and is marked "Field Sports E. M. & Co." Other animals are shown on the late mugs labeled "New York," "Philadelphia," "Delaware," and "Carolina."
Besides the makers already named, children's mugs were made by Thomas Godwin. One John Gilpin mug in brown transfer with splashes of blue, green, and yellow paint was marked "T. G." and one with a scene of a girl and cats printed in black is marked "Thos Godwin Burslem, Stone China." Several mugs are marked Wedgwood, and mugs with transfer prints were made at Leeds Pottery and Swansea. While a collection of mugs with late transfer scenes may be acquired at a moderate price, earlv transfers and such types as silver-resist patterns are comparatively scarce and expensive.