A large, stoneware jug in the collection of the Bennington Museum bears poignant witness to the temperance movement and contradictions inherent in Americans' attitudes towards the consumption of alcohol during the mid-nineteenth century. Made in 1859 by the Norton Stoneware Factory in Bennington, Vermont, the jug is an impressive 12 gallons in size and bears a prominent cobalt decoration depicting a compote of fruit resting on a base composed of two intertwined snakes. Above this decoration, on the jug's shoulder is a clay roundel inscribed: LUMAN P. NORTON/ 12 gals/1859/ IN VINO VERITAS. In addition to the date of manufacture and capacity, this mark notes who the jug was made for, a member of the family who owned the stoneware factory, and an interesting Latin phrase that can be translated, ““in wine [there is] truth.”” The combination of this phrase, the motif of the intertwined snakes, and Luman Preston Norton's role on Vermont's temperance movement are examined to provide a window into the conflicted attitudes about alcoholic consumption that existed in mid-nineteenth-century America and the way many tried to find a balance.
““In Vino Veritas””: A Stoneware Jug and the Contradictions of Temperance
jamie franklin is Curator of Collections at the Bennington Museum. He received his BA from the University of Washington in 2003 and an MA from the Williams College/Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in the History of Art in 2005. Pursuing his broad interests in the history of American art, Franklin is currently working on several research projects, including the history of the studio craft movement, early American folk art, and the history of photography in America.
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jamie franklin; ““In Vino Veritas””: A Stoneware Jug and the Contradictions of Temperance. Gastronomica 1 August 2009; 9 (3): 8–10. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2009.9.3.8
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