The name “William MaGivney” prominently incised into the stoneware body of this three-gallon jug does not refer to the pottery that produced the vessel but rather to the business owner for whom it was made. The jug was likely manufactured at the Nathan Clark Pottery in Athens, New York, while under the direction of Nathan Clark Jr. William MaGivney (d. 1897) was for many years a dealer in dry goods, groceries, crockery, and hardware in Rensselaerville Hamlet, New York. The gestural depiction of a fireman—recognizable because of the typical hat and fire horn, which were part of firefighting gear in the nineteenth century—is rare. Until the late nineteenth century, firefighters were, for the most part, volunteers. The image, which was certainly commissioned, may suggest that MaGivney served in this capacity.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Fireman Jug," exhibition label for Jubilation|Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2012.