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Museum Object of the Month (December 2018)

20 Dec 2018

18th century Earthenware Puzzle Jug                                                          

KMS 1981.113


This playful puzzle jug is one of the earliest drinking games, traditionally filled with ale it was used for wagers in pubs and dinner party tricks. The pitcher is dated 1789 was a popular sight in 18th and 19th century homes and taverns, with the oldest known example from the 14th century. This earthenware jug has a crudely-applied dark brown slip with a distinctive verse incised upon it challenging the guest to ‘Drink and be merry.’ However, this simple invitation is difficult for the unassuming guest to accomplish! The perforated decoration around the neck of the pitcher and a series of spouts and concealed holes form the puzzle; the novice must attempt to drink a full measure from the jug without spilling its contents over themselves.

As an article from 1890 states:

'The “puzzle” in all cases is to quaff the contents of the jug without losing a single drip, and this, as a rule, can only be done by a peculiar way of arranging the fingers so as to cover up all the orifices except one; and then, by sucking, draw the liquor through that one.'

The solution to the conundrum varied with every decanter, delighting boozers all over Europe.

Come and see our wonderful puzzle jug on permanent display in our Kendal and Westmorland Gallery!


‘Quaint Conceits in Pottery.’ in The Decorator and Furnisher, Vol. 15, No. 6, 1890, 180