Silver tankards featuring domed lid originated during the 1800s and as the shape continued to alter, baluster/tulip-shaped bodies appeared. Some designs even included small whistles on the handles which were supposedly used for attracting a waiter’s attention.
During the 1700s, when the popular beverages changed from beer and ale to wine and spirits the tankard diminished in popularity, replaced with vessels such as goblets. This didn’t entirely halt production of tankards, however, as wine and spirits were expensive beverages, and the average person still saw more use in a tankard than a goblet.
The dawning of the 18th century saw more elaborate designs find their place once again, with chased decoration and fluting becoming more commonly found in tankards of all sizes. Eventually, the production and evolution of tankards did cease over time, with only large presentation tankards being crafted as gifts to commemorate special occasions.
Tankards can vary in size, the most popular tankard sizes being half and quart tankards. The largest tankard on record was uncovered in wales and was two quarts- a four pint capacity!
The varying sizes correspond to different measures that were served. A quart is equal to two pints whereas a half tankard serves a pint. Interestingly, it is said this is where the phrase ”mind your P’s and Q’s” comes from, with the P’s and Q’s referring to the measure of alcohol. The bartenders in taverns would use this phrase to the customers to remind them "watch how much you are drinking”.
Today, the measurements served have been reduced by the world health organization and pint glasses have taken over. During the heyday of the tankard however, the vessels were used to serve the somewhat copious measurements that were expected at the time.