In the movie “12 O’Clock High” (based on a true story), World War II American pilots are shown chatting and laughing in the officers’ club at their air base in eastern England. Suddenly, an officer walks into the room, goes to a shelf in front and picks up a Toby mug that depicts Robin Hood. He turns it face forward. A hush falls over the room That was the signal they soon would be in their B-17 bombers on another hazardous mission over Nazi Germany.
Not all Toby Mugs have been a part in such a drama. They were mostly used for drinking. The first Toby Mugs were made in England in 1760. They borrowed the idea from the town of Delft in Holland, where they had success selling mugs that looked like Dutch Royalty. The English mugs were in the shape of a fat, drunken guy who seemed to be having a great time. Some people say the mugs were based on Sir Toby Belch from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. Another possibility, and the one that I subscribe to, is that it’s a legendary drinker named Henry Elwes. (I don’t think he’s related to Cary Elwes of “Princess Bride” fame) Henry was such a famous drunk that he was mentioned in the seventeenth century English drinking song, “The Brown Jug” He was also called Toby Phillpot (get it? Keep filling the pot with liquor)
Having one of these mugs in the old days made sure you were always drinking out of the right one. Plus they were colorful and fun to look at, especially if you were slightly tipsy. Over the years, other people were immortalized as a Toby. lots of English Kings, famous people of the era and characters of literature, especially Dickens.
In 1934, Royal Doulton introduced the first modern Toby type mug. The first one featured John Barleycorn, who symbolized whiskey. Today, all kinds of characters grace the mugs. The amount of detail is amazing. They are really works of art.
We have large mugs and small mugs. All are in good condition and highly collectible. The large mugs include, The Falconer, Neptune, Barrister or Lawyer, Oliver Twist, Chelsea Scottie, Toby Philpot, Mad Hatter, Chelsea Guards & one unidentified one from Wood & Sons,
The smaller mugs include Long John Silver, Chelsea Scottie, Falstaff, Tony Weller, Chelsea Beefeater, Chelsea Pensioner, Guardsman, Duchess, Neptune, Auld Mac and a Royal Doulton Lawyer.
The Toby you buy from Johnny-Sells may not send the Eighth Air Force over war torn Europe, but it will still look good on your shelf.
If you want to learn more about Toby Mugs, go to the Toby Museum in Evanston, IL. They are the experts in this field.