In Evanston is a small museum that most residents don’t even know exists. We didn’t either, until Open House Chicago listed it in the sites to tour in Evanston. In fact, I didn’t know what a Toby jug was. Nevertheless, located at 910 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, IL, the museum hosts thousands of visitors per year and has a collection of about 8300 jugs. Once you enter the front door, you then go down a flight of stairs to enter the museum.
The Toby jug and its derivative, the Character jug, is an art form of pottery that dates back to 1760.
These jugs were made in various European countries and in the United States.
Some are beautiful, some are whimsical, some have the faces of famous persons while others are painted in the style of Delft pottery.
There are very large jugs which stand on the floor and tiny ones no larger than a thimble. There are jugs representing people in various occupations as well as many in the shape of animals.
Why the name Toby? There are a few theories, but the most plausible one is that it comes from a 1761 drinking song composed by Rev. Francis Fawkes, The Brown Jug. The song tells the story of an expert boozer named Toby Fillpot.
After Toby Fillpot dies from excess drinking, his body turns to clay and is found by a potter. So the potter formed a brown jug from a fat Toby!
Some Toby jugs have been put to other uses, such as an umbrella stand, lamp bases, and decorative spoon handles.
These photos represent only a fraction of the jugs on display. (Since most are in glass cases, it wasn’t always possible to capture the displays without reflections from the overhead lights.)
Before we left, I had to use the restroom, which was decorated with a Toby jug theme!
How about a shirt with Toby jug designs?
After spending about half an hour here, we vowed to return at a later date when we have more time.