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For Father’s Day This Year, Give Dad a Toby or Two

What do you give the father who has everything? A Toby mug of course.

These treasures are fun to collect and display, and there are plenty of them to search for which is half the fun.

The Royal Doulton company has a long history and is famous for its tobies, among other wares. Doulton and Company of England was founded in 1853 but can be traced back to 1815 when the original partners, John Doulton and John Watts, manufactured utility stoneware and even drainpipes at Lambeth, England.

Royal Doulton is the name used on Doulton and Company pottery made from 1902 to the present.

The Royal Doulton shown in today’s column is one of their Toby character jugs or mugs and these have a strong following in the world of antiques.

Royal Doulton began the production of Tobies to meet the demand for this traditional, colorful English novelty and turned-out hundreds by the 1880s, with the brown stoneware version first made in 1815 when Doulton of Lambeth began. The earliest mugs are very rare.

Color was added around 1920 and in 1934 the first character mug by Doulton, John Barleycorn was born, named in honor of whiskey.

Ranging in size from tiny mugs appropriate for holding toothpicks, to huge jugs that could easily hold several servings of ale, the British born idea of the Toby began in the 18th century in the Staffordshire area of England at a time when the Ralph Woods Potters were craftsmen of great repute.

Today, these Ralph Wood versions are the most difficult to find. Other important Tobies include the Royal Doulton character jugs and Occupied Japan Tobies.

The mugs began as full figure designs, usually showing a stout gentleman in a tri-cornered hat, jacket, breeches and buckled shoes, sitting comfortably with a glass of beer in his hand. The Royal Doulton versions feature only a head-and-shoulder design honoring characters from literature, politics and sports.

An immediate hit, Tobies were first made in England and shipped to the colonies. Before long famous faces were found on Toby mugs and jugs like George Washington, Ben Franklin and Lord Nelson. America began to produce its own Tobies in the 1830s.

Generally, about five to eight inches tall, Royal Doulton Tobies are glazed and fun to collect since each has a character all its own.

The handles are a part of the character’s appeal too. For example, a British lawyer mug with white powdered wig features a quill pen handle.

Dating them requires research and knowledge of the line, the colors used during different eras of production, and company marks.

Doulton wasn’t dubbed Royal until 1901 when British monarch Edward VII awarded the company this distinction. The logo then changed with the addition of a crown emblem added to the British Lion mark.

Royal Doulton is just as well known for its figurine production. This began in the nineteenth century and grew. Figurines include subjects from movies, literature, popular culture, historical references and the current Royal Family of Britain.

There is so much to choose from with Royal Doulton that it really is a collector’s paradise of fine pottery choices.


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