Friday, September 14, 2007
I collect antique dishes. Dish collecting is an interest I got from my mother; the antique part is just my twist on that tradition. When there is a special occasion at my house I get out my Jewel Tea dishes. The first pieces in my collection (a large bowl, a baking dish and a salad bowl) were well-worn and came from my grandmother. I love them because of that connection. They remind me of being at her home, drinking Coke out of fancy glasses, staying up late, playing endless games of cards, and feeling very grown-up. Over the years I've acquired additional pieces as gifts. Others I've purchased at auctions and antique stores. They aren't fancy dishes, and maybe they are a little homely. But I love them.
The story behind Jewel Tea is one of the reasons I love them so much. Starting in the early 20th century, the Jewel Tea company employed door-to-door salesmen all over the nation and they sold dry goods (and tea). Customers earned premium stamps for their purchase and with those stamps could get bonuses, including these dishes made by Hall Superior dish company. Over the years, Hall Superior made more and more special pieces for Jewel Tea and thus a collector's paradise was born. There are innumerable dishes in the collection ---- custard cups, sauce bowls, plates of all sizes. You name it and Hall made it.
My grandmother remembered that her mother bought things from the Jewel Tea salesman in the 1930s because he had a lot of children and she worried they didn't have enough to eat. There's always plenty to eat at my house, of course. But I never forget that act of kindness by a woman a few generations away from me, yet still present at my supper table whenever I set out my Jewel Tea dishes.