This tankard was made in the 1820s or 1830s. It is made from pearlware, a light coloured pottery developed in the late 18th century. The mug has been decorated with the crest of the Independent Order of Oddfellows a friendly Society which still exists today.
Friendly Societies were organisations set up by workers and tradesmen, with the purpose of helping each other in times of need. Members would pay a membership fee and in return they would receive financial help if they got sick, had an accident or lost their job. If the worst happened, your family could receive money towards funeral costs.
Many friendly societies were specific to particular trades such as foresters, free masons or tinplate workers. But, in the early days, the Oddfellows were made up of people from different types of jobs. They worked in a trade that could not assemble a big enough group to make a beneficial society, especially in small towns. So the 'Odd fellows' came together to make their own group.
Friendly Societies established branches all across the county, usually with a single Grand Order or Lodge at its head. In 1810 the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows broke away from the Grand Order in London and became the Independent Order of Oddfellows (Manchester Unity). They persuaded other branches to join them. From this group the current Independent Order of Oddfellows was born.
In the early years of the society, meetings were compulsory and there were at least 3 toasts a night, so this mug probably witnessed a lot of action. Like other friendly societies the Oddfellows had many odd rituals which were always kept top secret. Such ritual and secrecy gave the friendly Societies great appeal, especially in the late 1800s when there were so many societies to choose from. But once a member you would swear an oath of secrecy. It has been said that the Oddfellows used fright masks in initiation ceremonies, but who knows if this is rumour or truth!