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Museum Feature

Museum Feature – Syracuse China “Herbert Hoover” Toby Jug

From our museum, we feature a delightful limited edition Toby jug from Syracuse China that depicts U.S. President Herbert Hoover. Modeled in the form of a heavy-set, jovial person, or person of repute, Toby mugs and Toby jugs have existed since the 1760s. Toby jug production grew throughout the nineteenth century, with the creation of many new humorous depictions of fictional and historical figures. A true Toby has the sculpted form of a full seated or standing figure. The close cousin to the Toby jug is the Character jug, which features only the head and shoulders of a character.

This Herbert Hoover jug was one of a set of Toby jugs sculpted by Syracuse artist Bertram Watkin – the other depicted Hoover’s Democratic opponent in the 1928 election, Alfred Smith. Both were created for the Patriotic Products Association of Philadelphia, PA to commemorate the 1928 presidential election. Bertram Watkin was a talented English artist who trained at Wedgwood before moving to the U.S. in 1920. In addition to sculpting figural items for Syracuse, Watkin was also responsible for designing the popular “Winchester” dinnerware shape, which was one of several shapes used for the Syracuse “Old Ivory” tableware line.

Herbert Clark Hoover was born in Iowa in 1874. Orphaned when he was just nine years old, Hoover moved to Oregon in 1885 to live with relatives. In 1895, Hoover graduated from Stanford University with a degree in geology and spent the next several years in Australia, China, and other locations while working for various mining operations. By 1914, Hoover was a self-made millionaire, having financed a number of mining companies around the world. During World War I, Hoover organized a relief effort to help the starving both during and after the war. Hoover was appointed Secretary of Commerce by President Harding in 1921, and immediately proceeded to redefine the responsibilities and expand the authority of the then relatively new position. In 1928, Hoover was elected 31st President of the U.S. (the first born west of the Mississippi River), capturing the vote in all but eight states against opponent Alfred Smith. Shortly after taking office, Hoover was faced with the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent worldwide economic depression.

Hoover spent the majority of his presidency trying to revive the U.S. economy with initiatives such as public works projects, tariffs on imports (to encourage increased purchases of American-made products), and higher taxes on the wealthy. As the economy continued to decline, Hoover’s efforts were regarded as unsuccessful, and he was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election. Hoover remained active in public service following his presidency, overseeing charities and fundraising until his death in 1964 at the age of 90.

The story of Syracuse China begins in 1841, when W. H. Farrar founded a pottery in Syracuse, NY. The company was sold in 1868 and changed its name to Empire Pottery. The company changed hands again in 1871, when it was purchased by the Onondaga Pottery Company. The initial products manufactured by Onondaga were earthenware pieces, and the company produced a variety of table and toilet wares. In 1888, the company became the first American company to produce translucent, vitreous fine china on par with that being produced by Europe at the time. The company continued to expand and innovate throughout the early twentieth century, and found success supplying china to the hotel and restaurant industries. In 1966, the company officially changed its name to Syracuse China. In 1995, after a series of mergers and acquisitions, Syracuse China was sold to Libbey, Inc.

While the Herbert Hoover Toby jug in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Syracuse China tableware and collectibles available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 400,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

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