Universal York

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York Methodists Break Jugs

Duke Street Methodist Church Shortly after Completion

Anyone associated with a non-profit institution knows that fundraising is a continuing necessity. It was the same in the past. York County churches were very good at coming up with new ways to raise cash. In a previous post I wrote about the York Moravians charging ten cents in 1867 to see their illuminated Christmas tree.

Click here to read about the Moravian Christmas tree.

Giving a donation to have your name embroidered on a quilt was also popular. I’ll go into that in a later post.
I recently came across “jug breaking,” a new one to me, but it was certainly a hit at the Duke Street Methodist Church in 1877. My recent York Sunday News column relates the details:

Jug Breaking
Has anyone ever heard of “jug breaking?” It must have been a popular pastime 130 years ago, judging by the following 1877 Gazette article:
“THE JUG BREAKING–The ‘jug breaking’ at the Duke street M.E. church, on Monday evening of last week…was a novel and creditable affair. There were 108 of these jugs, called up in sections of ten. After breaking them with a hammer, one by one, dialogues, recitations, and singing were engaged in, when the sum in each jug was announced, and ten more called and so on. A male quartette of York rendered some creditable music, whilst the Derringer family also did well. The choir organized for the occasion sang in a powerful, spirited and effective manner, accompanied on the organ by Miss Lizzie Buckingham.–Miss Millie Kidd gave some solo parts in her usually acceptable manner. Miss Emily K. Weiser sang the ‘Trundle Bed’ most delightfully, and we’re more than ever impressed with her vocalization. She has a rich, sweet, full and powerful voice. The refrain, to the familiar air ‘Come thou fount of every blessing,’ was rendered by her with a sweet plaintiveness and pathos that called forth well merited applause from the audience.
All who had jugs, and children, were admitted free, but nevertheless the ten cent admissions amounted to $26.60, whilst this sum, added to the contents of the jugs, made the total proceeds of the enterprise $182.70, in 4764 pieces, from a five dollar bill downwards, weighing 41 pounds. The highest amount in any one jug was $14.42, and the lowest, twenty-two cents.”
The event drew a nice crowd–266 adults who paid admission plus 108 who had jugs. Considering the large families of those days, there were probably lots of children present too. Note that they counted the proceeds by value, by number, and by weight. They certainly got a lot of entertainment value out of the “jug breaking.”
“Jug breaking” was evidently a widespread fund-raising custom in the 1870s and 1880s. An internet search brings up several far-flung examples of “jug breaking:”
Booker T. Washington’s Papers (University of Illinois) mentions it to raise money for a school in 1883.
The Arkansas City Republican, in February 1887 reports: “The jug breaking last night at the Presbyterian Church was a great success. The ladies of the Home and Foreign Missionary Society sent out jugs into the homes of the congregation last July and met last evening to ascertain the result. An interesting programme had been arranged and was all carried out….”
From the January 1880 New York Times: “The North Baptist Church infant Sunday School will have an infant class exhibition and jug breaking this evening in aid of the new church building fund.”
“Jug breaking” is explained in the following except on the Dorchester [MA] Athenaeum website. It refers to building a church auditorium, ca. 1870: “Some of the older members of Trinity Church will remember the jug-breaking—this is not a temperance story—the members of the Sunday School were given little pottery jugs with a slug in the top, into which a coin could be slipped, but the only way to get them out, was to break the jug. At the end of the campaign an evening was set apart for a jug-breaking, and it was surprising to see the piles of coins as they heaped up.”
According to Gibson’s 1886 History of York County and files at the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, the Duke Street Methodist congregation had dedicated their new church on the northwest corner of Duke St. and College Ave. in 1872, but carried debt for ten more years. The “jug breaking” might have been one of the fundraisers to retire that debt.
Duke Street Methodist Episcopal Church was also known as Wesley Memorial. The congregation moved to Tyler Run Road in 1960. It was renamed Aldersgate United Methodist after a 1989 merger with Faith United Methodist. Faith had started out as Second United Brethren on the southeast corner of Duke Street and South Street, just down the street from Duke Street M.E.
Has anyone ever seen any little jugs that might have been used for this purpose? Were they made by a local potter? If anyone remembers hearing about more jug breaking in York County please contact me.