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History of the English Puzzle Mug

Puzzle mugs were first made by the Greeks in the second century BC.
Tavern joke jugs were very popular during the 17th to early 19th centuries in Europe.
The puzzle is to figure which holes to cover, the obvious, the hidden and which holes to sip from.
By simply holding this mug comfortably in the correct hand and sipping from the right hole, any brew could be enjoyed without spilling.



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They had to be careful so that they didn't forget to cover and drink out of the right holes as the night wore on and the more brews that were downed.
There were a few wet shirts that went home every night.

Puzzle mug
Originally made in England, Germany and the US from the 15th to 19th C.
These were used for wagering and most had lettering on the sides inviting the drinker to place a bet on drinking without spilling the contents.
The lettering can be seen on the side of the mug below.
Some of the period colors were yellow, tin white with accents, black, red brown, olive green, and salty white only.
Many period vessels were glazed on the inside and iron stained on the outside.

Puzzle mug 4
In the simple days of old, drinkers carousing in taverns might have enjoyed their brew from pottery mugs especially designed for loud amusement.
A ceramic frog peering from the bottom of the cup, or a chirping whistle mug were the creations of long gone potters to make greater the cheerfulness of happy hour.

Puzzle Jug

Unless held to the mouth in exactly the right way, a puzzle mug would spill beer down the drinkers shirt.
This was a big hit with the tavern crowd.
The mugs were designed with multiple dribble holes and tunnels inside the handle and cup rim, the handle or walls connected to a drinking spout at the lip of the cup. This would allow the drinker to suck up his beverage, providing his fingers covered the right combination of false drinking spouts which were placed around the cup lip.
If he attempted drinking from the cup in the normal fashion, the beverage would pour out through holes carved just under the cup's lip.
As the evening progressed into a rowdy uproar, finding the safe spot from which to drink would become increasingly chancy, providing fun for all.

Staggering home in clothing soaked in beer has lost some appeal down through time.
This might explain why puzzle mugs have gone out of style (at least in the bars).
They linger in a crude modern counterpart, the dribble glass, found in novelty shops.
A dribble glass is only a glass drilled with a dribbling hole, which is a far cry from the fancy pottery cups designed to send tavern patrons into stitches.

Fuddling cups, charmingly named, required less skill from the potter, but more from the drinker.
They are made of multiple cups put together side by side into one wicked messy drinking container.
Passageways between the cups required the drinker to carefully empty them in the correct sequence.
The wrong choice resulted in a drenching, the right choice in befuddlement!!

Fuddling Puzzle Cup
Joke mugs haven't lost any of their popularity over time.
In todays world the counterpart would be the office coffee mug, with its snappy sayings or cartoons.
Even the frog in the mug has surfaced repeatedly, turning into everything from submarines to the Christmas elves.
A cup of this sort was named a Nightingale, a refined name suitable for tea drinkers and the younger milk drinkers of the family.

Frog puzzle cup 3

Christmas Surprise with this variation of the Frog Mug

Another choice for the noisy set was the whistle mug.
These came in several forms.
In the simplest form, a whistle was just attached to the handle of the cup.

Child's Whistle Mug
In a more complicated form, the whistle chamber was made to connect with an air passage into the bowl of the cup.
When empty and the whistle blown, only one note was sounded.
When the cup was full, the air bubbling through the liquid created bird like trills and warblings.

This large bird-shaped water whistle has 2 chambers and produces mellow chirping sounds. It is similar to drinking vessels and ceremonial whistles used in Central and South America from 600 B.C. to A.D. 1500. You can vary the pitch of the chirping sound by covering the holes near the head.


Many of the early tavern mugs were found with two or more handles.
This allowed several drinkers seated around the table to have equal access to the brew.
At banquets, two handled loving cups could be passed easily along a line of guests with each taking a swig.
Two handled cups are still around, but their primarily use today is for sports awards.

Germans marching with their whistling mug
Becoming a specialty item in most parts of the country, the whistle mugs are still produced in Germany with the barrel shape style of old tankards.
Like the mugs before them, they are often impressively large.
They hold amounts that could easily put several drinking cronies under the table, though the one handle with a whistle perched jokingly on the top, suggests that a single drinker is expected to finish it all.

It is good to remember that the teakettle, even up to its neck in hot water, continues to sing.



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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

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With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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