The Mettlach Occupationals*

by Patrick J. Clarke and John O’Conner

The illustrious Baron George Von Derfflinger was an elector of Brandenburg and a Field Marshall, who engaged in the battle of Warsaw in 1656 and Fehrbellin in 1675 and also in the 1678-1679 Campaign against Sweden. A distinguished soldier and militarist, so therefore it is only appropriate that a military stein should be dedicated to his honor — Right!


The illustrious Baron was the son of a peasant and was trained as, and was a skillful Tailor. Occupational stein No. 2720 — the Tailor — is dedicated to his memory.

With the devotion to the work ethic so important to the Germans, it is not surprising that the German stein makers produced many steins with motifs dedicated to the various trades and professions. There is hardly a profession or skilled trade that was not honored by a stein depicting the tools, or some related facet of the occupation or profession including the military. And we can conclude from the quality and artistry of the fashioning of these steins that they were not to be used as a daily drinking vessel. More likely they were presentation pieces, on the occasion of a marriage, graduation, promotion, or as an award in a contest, to be kept in the family as a cherished memento.

There were a great many, and still are, manufacturers of steins and all seemingly devoted some of their output to honoring the skilled trades, but one will be hard put to find anything as well designed and as imaginatively decorated as the twelve steins turned out by Villeroy and Boch at Mettlach around the turn of the century.

Most Mettlach collectors are familiar with the book steins which considered the various professions and other than the fact that the insert lids are different showing some aspect or insignia and the titles on the book spines carry the authors names and the titles of authoritative works of the profession, they are pretty much the same. And even at this late date in the field of collecting it is still possible to put together the complete collection.

This is not true of the occupationals and it would be extremely difficult to put a complete collection together today as their production was probably limited in comparison to others. There are possibly very few completed collections in the United States today. (I know of only one)

There are twelve in the series, all one half liter in size, with a deep hollow bottom giving it the appearance of a one liter. All have insert or inlay lids and were available only with the inlay lids as compared to the other Mettlachs for which a choice of pewter or inlay lids were available. The thumb-lifts are plain and undistinguished and all similar. Their cost from the factory in 1906 was 4.90 marks complete, a considerable sum in those days and would cause its owner to hesitate to use it as a drinking vessel on a steady basis.

No. 2719 – Baker – Lions rampant on a shield over a crowned pretzel. On the back of the stein: “God bless the honored hand work of the baker.” Inlay lid depicting rolls or bread.

No. 2720 – Tailor – Mounted cavalier with town of Rathenow in the background. Inlay lid shows scissors, thread, thimble, and needle. On the front of the stein is incised, “George Baron von Derfflinger, Elector of Brandenburg. General-Field Marshall and Councillor of War 1606-1695. A master tailor and the son of a peasant.”

No. 2721 – Cabinet-maker – Inlay lid shows tools of the trade — nails, square, dividers, chisel, etc. On the body of the stein: “At the beginning and the end, at the cradle and the grave, there must the hands of the cabinet-maker be.”

No. 2722 – Shoemaker – Jack Boot and leather tools on inlay lid. On the body of the stein is a dramatic portrait of Hans Sachs and on the ribbon surrounding it, “Hans Sachs was a shoemaker and poet.” Hans Sachs was a German Meistersinger born in Nurnberg and an itererant shoemaker. He studied the art of Meistergesand from 1511 to 1515, and began writing in 1514, composing 6000 works including tragedies, comedies, songs, fables, allegories, and narratives. At the Reformation he accepted the doctrine of Martin Luther. He was depicted as the central figure in Wagner’s opera “The Meister-singer of Nurnberg” in 1868.

No. 2723 – Carpenter – On the inlay lid are a pinetree and the words Erlebe Loch! The excellent picture on the front of the stein shows a bearded carpenter and a child working at the carpenter’s trade, and if it were not for the contemporary look of the frame work in the background it is possible that the figures are to represent Joseph and the child Jesus at work. The translation of the legend on the back of the stein is “God bless the happy carpenters handwork.”

No. 2724 – Mason – Triangle, compass and crown on inlay lid. “Who indeed built the house and the tower of stone, if it wasn’t the elfs, it must have been the mason.” On the body of the stein is a mason and helper building a wall with the tools of the trade on the front.

No. 2725 – Artist or painters – Palette and brush on inlay lid with the Latin inscription Brevis ors longs vita — “Life is short art is forever.” On the front of the stein is a maiden, antlers, and crown. On a ribbon is the saying: “This is the artists ancient coat of arms.”

No. 2726 – Goldsmith – On the front of the stein is depicted a Bishop making a gold cup on an anvil, and it is flanked on either side by shields. A ciborium is on the inlay lid. Inscription reads “St. Elegius, patron of the goldsmith.” St. Elegius or St. Eloi, a French ecclesiastic lived from 588 to 659 A.D., learned the goldsmith trade and gained the favor of Clotaire II by skill in making a throne. He was chief counsellor to Dagobert I, Bishop of Noyon in 639 A.D. and is the patron saint of goldsmiths.

No. 2727 – Printer – This is probably the most dramatic of the occupationals. On the front of the stein is a double headed black eagle with printing implements in its talons. On the inlay lid is inscribed “Long live the noble printers art.” On the body is the date and town of Mainz where the first moveable type was invented by Johan Gutenberg. Strangely, however, Gutenberg’s name is not shown.

No. 2728 – Brewer – Body of stein shows a barrel with a Bavarian shield and brewers tools. Inlay lid shows a barrel and stein. Inscription reads: “Hops and malt — may God preserve them.”

No. 2729 – Locksmiths and smithies – Two shields are shown on the body — on one a hammer, tongs, horseshoe and coiled and crowned snake, and on the other tongs and keys. The inscription on a double band above shields reads: “We locksmiths and we blacksmiths, we are at peace with one another, and whoever wants to separate us, we will lock into the vise.” The inlay lid depicts a vise.

No. 2730 – Butcher – Standing ox with crossed cleavers above it. Inscription on sides reads: “If the ox were born without bones, then it would certainly be better on the scales.” On the inlay lid is depicted a pig.


*Reprinted by permission from Prosit, the Journal of Stein Collectors International, Issue No. 48, June 1977