Puzzle Jugs

Puzzle jugs were used for drinking games in pubs and taverns from medieval times up into the early 19th century. Users had to figure out how to pour liquid held in the jug into their mouths or a glass without spilling fluid all over themselves or the table.

Puzzle Jug, , salt-glazed stoneware with ‘scratch blue’ decoration, Victoria and Albert Museum

So what exactly is a “puzzle jug”?

In this entertaining 6 minute film, potter Michelle Erickson recreates an 18th century “puzzle jug” from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection. Ms. Erickson explains both what a puzzle jug is, how they were made, and how they were used in pubs and tavern games.

Here are several examples of puzzle jugs that I found in the V&A’s collection.

Puzzle Jug, ca 1790, Lead-glazed earthenware, painted in overglaze enamels, moulded and pierced,
Victoria and Albert Museum
Puzzle-jug Possibly made in Raeren, Germany, Grenzhausen about 1700 Stoneware with stamped and incised decoration,
Victoria and Albert Museum
Puzzle jug, lead-glazed earthenware with incised decoration. English, made in Donyatt in Somerset, dated 1791,
Victoria and Albert Museum

In another short film, Leslie Grigsby, Senior Curator of Ceramics and Glass at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, shows several puzzle jugs in that museum’s collection.

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