With Labor Day and National Beer Lover’s Day being celebrated around the U.S. today, I’m sure many of you are relaxing by the pool, grilling some food and enjoying a cold one. How many of you are sipping your cold brew from a skull stein?
Did you know that in the late 19th century skull steins were all the rage in central Germany. According to stein collectors the skull variety of steins were so popular and ubiquitous they are still found at auctions to this day.
The primary manufacturer seemed to have been a porcelain factory called E. Bohne Söhne. The company produced over a dozen diferent designs. There was the standard skull, the wide mouth skull, skull with intertwined snakes and the ever popular “skull on book” where the skull sits on a Commersbuch which is a song book filled with tunes made for singing and drinking.
Many of the steins had phrases of well wishes or traditional toasts carved on them. Like “Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus” which translates “Let us rejoice while we are young.” The sentiment was lifted from a song dating back to the 13th century that was popular with students. The tune sends the message to rejoice while you are young, because in the end the earth will cover their bones. Great advice!
There was even a two-faced skull stein with a standard skull on one side and the devil’s face smiling back on the other. Truly a skull stein for any occasion!
So on this Labor Day, whether you are imbibing from a skull stein or your favorite frosty mug, remember the words of Oscar Wilde: “Work is the curse of the drinking class!”
Loevi, Frank. Collector’s Guide to Antique Figural Skull Steins. September 1999. Prosit, the Journal of Stein Collectors International.