Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Ode to the Farmer and the Harvest

We have often seen a bumper sticker that says, "No Farms No Food." This may be interpreted in a few different ways, but - as have other professions - the farming community has been advertising its contributions to society for hundreds of years. As tools used on the farm have evolved, so have the methods of keeping the farmers' perspective fresh in the minds of the consuming public.

"Arms" Jug ca. 1800

We have just a few objects in the museum collection that would be used on the farm - a scythe or two, a beautiful hay rake, and milk collecting jugs. The museum also houses some interesting farm propaganda tools. The most charming is a two-handled mug (or jug as it would have been referred to) made around 1800. As mugs go, this one is large - holding approximately 32 ounces. The white exterior is decorated in polychrome colors and illustrated on one side with a farmer and his wife, various farm implements, animals and crops. On the opposite side is a twelve-line poem surrounded by a border of farm tools and products. The inside rim of our mug is decorated in a simple stylized design of wheat stalks and green leaves.

Book label pasted on the inside front cover of the above book. Alice and
William often had labels on the books kept at Heart's Delight Farm.

This style of jug was originally made by Richard Abbey (1720-1801) in Liverpool, England. Our copy of "The Old China Book" by N. Hudson Moore, published in 1903, mentions this was one of a series of "Arms" jugs created by Abbey. The museum copy of this book is well worn and has the Heart's Delight Farm library label pasted inside the front cover. This indicates it was one of Alice's personal reference books. Many of her tomes in the museum collection are reference books about decorative arts. Alice clearly wanted to know as much as she could about the objects she was collecting.

According to Moore there are Arms jugs for many professions; including the Blacksmith, with the motto "By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand," the Baker, the Butcher, and even the Hatter. The motto on the Farmer's jug is "The Husbandman's Diligence Provides Bread." The lines on the back of the jug read;

"Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendour and state.
I envy them not I declare it.
I eat my own lamb
My own chickens and ham.
I shear my own fleece and I wear it.
I have lawns I have bowers
I have fruits I have flowers.
The lark is my morning alarmer:
So my jolly boys now
Heres God speed the plough.
Long life and success to the farmer."

This poem has been used for many years in songs and odes under various titles: "The Farmer's Toast," "God Speed the Plough," and "The Farmer's Creed" being a few we have identified. It may have been borrowed from a popular song of the day, however, it's unclear to us which came first. The originator of the Arms mugs was a talented engraver who may have drawn on popular sayings or songs for the poem to support his design.

According to museum records this jug has been in Alice's collection since before 1917. That is the year Alice's dear friend and fellow collector, Emma Hodge, wrote a catalog of her porcelain collection. Undoubtedly, being the advocate he was for farmers and their hard working ways, William Miner also appreciated the sentiment this jug bears!

And so, in honor of the harvest which feeds us through the winter months, "Long life and success to the farmer!"

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. It never occurred to me that such public relations efforts would have been necessary that long ago.

    I enjoy reading your blog.