|By Jeffrey B. Snyder
In 1920, the Hall China Co. (1903-present) of East Liverpool, Ohio, plucked three sturdy teapots from their institutional hotel line, decorated them with gold to give them glamour and elegance, and introduced them to the retail trade. These teapots came glazed in the company’s stock brown and green, or in white, and were adorned with a variety of glittering gold decorative motifs. Coupled with a sustained campaign to educate the American housewife on the proper brewing of tea, which of course required a Hall teapot, the popularity of these gold trimmed teapots soon gave Hall bragging rights as the largest manufacturer of decorated teapots in the world.
The Hall China Co. also produced a wide range of coffeepots, ranging from biggins and all china coffeepots to percolators of their own. The firm also produced ceramic components of coffeepots for other coffee companies as well.
Those early Hall teapots were popular with the public. The pots did not craze and they produced a decent cup of tea. Over the decades, Hall China produced many teapot shapes and decorated them in many ways. The company also produced various teapot lines. During the 1930s, Hall decorated six teapot shapes with decal treatments. These teapots were the Baltimore, French, Los Angeles, Newport, New York, and Philadelphia shapes. Sales were less than stellar, especially compared to the success of the Gold Decorated line.
From 1938 through 1941, Hall China produced a series of six whimsical novelty teapots in unique shapes that are much sought after by collectors today. These were the automobile, basket, basketball, birdcage, doughnut, and football.
During the 1940s, Hall attempted two teapot lines with mixed success. During the early war years, Hall attempted to look back to the romantic past of the 19th century with a Victorian line of teapots. Each Victorian line shape was offered in one or two glaze colors, yet, despite the late addition of gold decoration, this line met with little success. The Victorian line was followed by six teapots designed by J. Palin Thorley and dubbed the Brilliant Series. Brilliant Series teapots were glazed in several colors. Some of these teapots were decorated with rhinestones (a quickly passing fancy with potters), gold, and decal treatments. The Brilliant Series was offered to the public sporadically over the years until late in the 1960s.
During the latter years of the 1950s, Hall China produced the Gold Label line. Teapots from the earlier Gold Decorated line were more heavily coated in gold. Kitchen accessories were added to the line but no new teapot shapes were added to the Gold Label line. Gold Label teapots were marked on the base with a letter and number code beginning with “GL.”
During the 1960s, interest in teapots begins to flag. Hall China introduced another teapot line featuring six teapots decorated with decal treatments.
During the 1960s and 1970s, chain stores such as the A. & P. were struggling against a combination of fierce industry-wide competition and United States regulatory restrictions on corporate size. In the face of declining profits, many stores closed their doors. It appears that during this period, Hall China left the foundering retail market, returning more fully to the institutional trade. Hall discontinued the long running Autumn Leaf line, offered through the Jewel Tea Company, in 1976.
By the 1980s, chain stores had trimmed back and were recovering from their losses. The Hall China Co. introduced teapots in the Hall American line in 1984. These were the first teapots offered through retail stores when Hall returned to the retail trade. Teapots in the American line were the Airflow, Rhythm, and square T-Ball. All three had originally been offered to the public decades earlier. The Airflow was originally offered in the retail market in 1940; the Rhythm in 1939; and the T-Ball in 1948. The reintroduced teapots all bear the company’s post-1969 square manufacturer’s mark. So, collectors, make sure to check those manufacturer’s marks before you buy. Today, collectors may also purchase copies of some of the company’s most popular teapot designs of the past directly off the Hall China website.
Hall’s all-china coffeepots and biggins worked on the same principal as the original French biggin. Coffee grounds were placed in the china dripper up top with the ceramic spreader. Hot water entered the top and filtered through as coffee in the base. Hall’s biggins and all-china drip coffeepots had four components: the dripper, base, spreader (placed inside the dripper), and the lid. All-china drip coffeepots came in a variety of shapes. They came glazed in solid colors, with bands and lining, or adorned with a wide variety of colorful decals. Of the various shapes, only the E-style all-china coffeepot, designed by J. Palin Thorley, was decorated in a single decal pattern, Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon pattern on the E-style all-china drip pot was sold by Sears Roebuck and Co. from 1941 through the 1950s.
The French Drip coffeepots (a.k.a. biggins) transformed a Hall China teapot into a coffeepot with the addition of the dripper and spreader.
The Cube Coffee Pot was a uniquely shaped coffeepot patented in England and licensed to several American pottery firms for production in sets. Coffee and tea cube sets were produced by Hall China beginning early in the 1930s. Cube coffeepots stand taller than the teapots. It is easy to identify more recent Cube pots, as they are marked with the square printed Hall manufacturer’s mark introduced in 1969.
Hall China moved forward with the times and produced the popular electric percolators as well. Hall China produced percolators in several tall, sleek ceramic shapes with minimal ornamentation that suited the times and consumer’s tastes well from the 1930s onward. The shape most often produced is the shape on which the Autumn Leaf pattern may be found. This body features a short spout, low disk shaped finial, smooth sides, and a separate heating element at the base, a design modification introduced to percolators of the 1920s and 1930s.
Offered for sale for the first time in 1919 through the Montgomery Wards mail order catalogs, the enduring Washington coffeepot may still be purchased through Hall’s Super Express Service today. The Washington was produced in cup sizes ranging from a diminutive one cup to a large 15-cup pot. The Washington coffeepot has been glazed in many colors and adorned with many decal motifs over time.
Hall produced coffeepots and teapots for a variety of companies, including Coffelator, Enterprise Aluminum, and Tricolator. Hall China also produced ceramic coffeepots and percolators for Forman Family, Inc., the Gardiner Co., the F. S. Martin Co. and Westinghouse.
As Hall’s teapots and coffeepots were well made, enduring, and popular, today’s collectors have a wide variety of wonderful wares to choose from. So, what will it be, coffee or tea?
Jeffrey B. Snyder is the author of the book Hall China, available from Schiffer Publishing (610) 593-1777 or www.schifferbooks.com