In 1905, Addis Emmet Hull founded the A. E. Hull Pottery Company in Crooksville, Ohio. Hull soon expanded to include two potteries in 1907, when the company bought the Acme Pottery Company, also in Crooksville. This acquisition brought Hull’s workforce numbers up to an impressive 400 total. Hull Pottery was growing quickly.
The company introduced its first line of art pottery in 1917, and it sold these pieces to florists and gift shops. By the early 1920s, Hull’s business was booming thanks to its diverse product line—in addition to art pottery, the company manufactured florists’ pots, garden ware, stoneware, and semi-porcelain, as well as reasonably priced toilet ware. Its lusterware lines included pieces in a variety of attractive colors, like lavender, slate, emerald, iridescent blue, golden glow, and others.
With the company expanding, Hull built a 310-foot kiln in 1923 for the then-princely sum of $75,000. This investment increased its production capability by more than 3 million pieces per year. Combined with the plant Hull purchased from Acme, the company’s overall production was almost 8 million pieces of pottery annually.
From 1927 to 1929, the company also produced decorative tile, mostly for the William H. Jackson Company. These tiles were made on special order and were fairly expensive. Hull produced two types of tile—plain and faience.
Additionally, the company realized that importing European art pottery for resale was actually substantially cheaper than manufacturing its own. Every year from 1921 to 1929, Hull sent a representative to Europe to buy pottery to bring back to America, as a supplement to its manufacturing.
When the Depression struck in 1929, Hull stopped importing and renewed its emphasis on domestically produced pottery. It continued to produce large quantities of affordable stoneware in order to maintain revenue streams in tough times. The American Clay Products Company, for example, marketed semi-porcelain and stoneware items that Hull produced.
In 1937, Hull took on yet another major project, this time producing about 11 million pieces for New York’s Shulton Company and its Old Spice brand. Hull produced Old Spice shavi...
Hull achieved its first runaway success in 1943 with its release of the Red Riding Hood cookie jar. The item was so popular that well into the 1950s Hull created a full line on this theme. Hull crafted the pieces and then sent them to the Royal China and Novelty Company in Chicago to be decorated. Today, the Red Riding Hood casserole dish is extremely rare and collectible.
During the same period, Hull produced a variety of novelty items, including foot-long piggy banks and elephant and pig liquor bottles. The company also manufactured lamps, which are tough to find today.
After World War II, many companies, Hull among them, ran “Buy American” ad campaigns; these efforts helped insulate Hull and others from international competition. As the 1940s came to a close, Hull began producing the pastel-tinted art pottery pieces that would define the Hull look, with embossed, realistic floral sprays. Vases, baskets, and other pieces came in a variety of colors, including rose, blue, peach, sweet pink, and apricot, and generally sported Hull’s distinctive matte finish. The Rosella line and a few others, however, were high-gloss.
In June 1950, Hull’s plant burned down after a disastrous flood. Yet the company was so popular and trusted that orders came in even while the plant was closed and even though customers knew their orders would have to wait until the new factory opened in 1952.
After 1952, under the leadership of J. B. Hull, pieces were no longer marked with “Hull Art U.S.” or “Hull U.S.A.,” but with the simple “hull.” With this new era, the A. E. Hull Pottery Company changed its name to the Hull Pottery Company, as it resumed production at about 100,000 items per week.
With the new factory came florist ware, kitchenware, and novelty items. From 1957 to 1958, for example, Hull produced about 5,000 piggy banks per day, most of which were bought and distributed by Jim Burns of Chicago.
Hull’s House ’n’ Garden line debuted in 1960. These durable, multicolored serving pieces came in mirror brown, tangerine, green agate, and butterscotch. Naturally, Hull advertised the ware as an attractive “rainbow table” that the consumer could assemble with its products. Hull followed House ’n’ Garden with Crestone in 1965.
In the mid-1970s, Hull’s production was about 75 percent casual serving ware and 25 percent florist ware. By the 1980s, this balance shifted to about 90 percent casual serving ware and 10 percent florist ware.
Faced with mounting international competition and multiple labor strikes, however, Hull closed for good in March 1986, but the company’s legacy was a wide array of patterns and lines, including Woodland, Parchment and Pine, Flora, Tropicana, and Continental.