Hall China And The Jewel Tea Company      by: Ann Brandt
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, January, 2005

The Bowl That Started It All!

The Hall China Company has produced many lovely patterns of dinnerware and cookware but one that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s is Autumn Leaf. The three-piece mixing bowl set was introduced in 1933 and remained in production until 1976. Although new items were added periodically and old items were discontinued, the bowl set remained in the Autumn Leaf line throughout the production of this design. A few Autumn Leaf items reappeared briefly in 1978. Pieces produced in this time frame carry a distinctive backstamp with the year 1978 included.

Hall China grew out of the inoperative East Liverpool, Ohio Potteries Company. In 1903 Robert Hall's thirty-three potters using three oven kilns began making the first chinaware to bear the trade name, Hall China. When Mr. Hall died in 1904 his son took over the business and began experimenting with new methods of glazing. He wanted a single-fire process and based his work on an obscure formula from the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Despite setbacks such as the 1910 vandalism attack on the factory a successful lead-free glaze was developed. In 1911 the strong, hard, nonporous and crazeproof glaze emerged to make the struggling company a paying operation.The year 1914 brought more opportunities. Because European pottery companies were unable to ship products to the United States, Hall China became one of the chief suppliers of casseroles, teapots, coffeepots and other household items. Hall China showed well in this period with its durability and esthetic appearance. The imported ware had been soft, porous, absorbent, and roughly finished. Hall china was smooth, nonabsorbent, and glistening as brightly when well used as when new. By the end of the war Hall's customer base was well established.

By 1919 Hall China Company had expanded and introduced a new line--gold decorated teapots. Along with producing teapots, the company undertook to educate the American housewife in the proper method of brewing tea and the proper pot in which to brew it. Hall soon became the world's largest manufacture of decorated teapots. Today Hall teapots are in great demand with prices ranging from $75. to $1,500 in the Autumn Leaf pattern. Autumn Leaf owes a great deal of its success to the door-to-door salesmen of the Jewel Tea Company, so named because the idea behind the company was thought of as a jewel. The company founder, Frank Vernon Skiff, was working for the India Tea Company when he noticed that most of the coffee being sold became stale before it reached the customer. In 1899 he opened a business selling freshly roasted coffee door-to--door. A quality product with reasonable prices built a solid customer base, and Skiff added teas and spices to the line.

In 1901 Skiffs brother-in-law, Frank P. Ross became his partner, operating under the name "Skiff and Ross" at 643 E. 43rd Street in Chicago. They soon named the fledgling company "Jewel Tea Company." It was incorporated under that name in 1903. In those first years Jewel Tea served primarily as a home delivery service, with a few stores set up to show what products were available in specific areas. By 1908 the products were sold under Jewel's own label and the customer base reached one million households.

Jewel reached the one million dollar mark in annual sales in 1910. By 1916 the company was operating in both Chicago and New York City. By the end of 1917 the U.S. government needed the Jewel plant in Hoboken, New Jersey for war material production and Jewel scaled back its household business. In 1919 Skiff and Ross were forced out of the business because of inadequate accounting controls. Then came a succession of new company presidents: Raymond E. Durham, J .M.Hancock, and Maurice Karker. The company once again began operating with a profit.

Hall China came into the picture in the early to mid-1920's with the introduction of teapots offered as customer premiums. Autumn Leaf, the most famous pattern, appeared as one of the most notable premiums. It became synonymous with Jewel Tea and some pieces bear the backstop that  include the Jewel name. The Home Service Division, launched in 1924, helped spur sales. A "Jewel Lady" ( Reed Hartson) came out with a series of cookbooks and a monthly publication, the "Jewel News." Soon her name was shortened to Mary Dunbar. By 1931 the "Seal of Approval" on the backstamp of Hall China included the Mary Dunbar name and the name "Jewel Homemakers Institute."

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Jewel continued as a highly successful service, offering Quality Premiums. With every package of products a customer bought, a credit was offered that could be applied toward payment for household articles without additional cash outlay. Much of the Hall Autumn Leaf pattern entered American households in this manner.

In 1966 the Jewel Home Shopping Service became a division of Jewel Companies, Inc., and in 1981 the home shopping service began to phase out. A new name "JT Dealer Sales and Services Corp.," evolved in 1994, bringing to a close almost a century of quality products with quality customer service. The Hall China-Jewel Tea connection remains only on the shelves of Hall China collectors.

The Hall China factory is on Route 39 in East Liverpool, Ohio. Hours are 9:30am to 1:00pm Monday through Friday. Call 330-385-2900. A Hall China website is www.inter-services.com

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