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Snake Jug

ca. 1865
Origin: America, Illinois, Anna
Overall (jug with stopper together): 13 x 9 3/4 x 9 1/4in. (33 x 24.8 x 23.5cm) Overall (jug only): 10 1/2 x 9 3/4 x 9 1/4in. (26.7 x 24.8 x 23.5cm) Overall (stopper only): 7 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 1 3/4in. (18.4 x 8.9 x 4.4cm)
Salt-glazed stoneware, paint
Partial gift of Mr. & Mrs. Milton Schaible
Acc. No. 1976.900.5,A&B
This stoneware jug is unglazed and cold painted. The paint was applied after the piece was fired and is not adhered to the vessel through a heat process, therefore making it much more fugitive. The jug is further ornamented with several writhing snakes, dung beetles, frogs and humans trying to get in or out of the jug. Many of the faces, hands, and feet of the people can move slightly making the vessel even more animated. The monkey-shaped stopper is shown patting his head and rubbing his belly. The frog pouring spout is perched on the handle rendering this piece all, but unusable and therefore suggesting that this jug was never intended to be used, but was rather a sculptural piece. The surface of the jug is patterned to suggest the snake skin.

A) Jug
B) Stopper
Label:The most impressive of the Anna Pottery's wares are delirium tremens whiskey jugs. This example includes writhing snakes, frogs, dung beetles, and human figures crawling into the jug while others try to escape. For many years scholars assumed that jugs like this were intended as propaganda for the temperance movement. This conclusion was based primarily on quotes from the "Jonesboro Gazette," which interpreted the Pottery's works as illustrative of their support of temperance legislation. In truth, the Kirkpatrick brothers were not supporters of temperance. They consistently chose to advertise in other area newspapers that opposed temperance; Cornwall Kirkpatrick spoke out against it on several occasions during political speeches; and while Wallace Kirkpatrick did serve one six-month term with a local temperance group he seems to have been a bit of an embarrassment to the organization. More likely, this jug and others like it are meant to be ironic, playful and cynical commentary on drinking and the temperance movement in general.
--Inspiration and Ingenuity: American Stoneware
Exhibition curated by Suzanne Findlen Hood
At the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
February 2007


Provenance:Timothy Frier, Macomb, Ill.; James Irish, Colchester, Ill.
Mark(s):"in side out. Kirkpatrick, Anna, Ills" is incised around the lip of the jug.
Inscription(s):"in side out. Kirkpatrick, Anna Ills" around the lip of the jug.