Three on a Wire: McCormick, Johnson Brothers, and Rakkasan

McCormick tea pot Johnson Bros San Franciso

No, I am not having tea this late at night in Mississippi.  If you are elsewhere, it could well be morning.  This is the start of the second week on working from home, online classes for our students, and it has required far more than 8 hours today to keep up–but then, it usually does anyway.  So while I had tea this morning, and took photos of my morning ritual, I am just now at after 8 p.m. tonight getting around to taking a break.  I rightfully surmised this morning that I needed the large teapot, which would suffice for afternoon high tea.  On to the particulars!

Mothers teapotFirst, let’s talk about the teapot, and yes, I know this is not the one in the first photo.  This is the original, 1947 McCormick teapot purchased by my great grandmother Timmons, using tea coupons.  She gave it to my mother for Christmas in 1947, while Mother was expecting with her first child, my older sister born summer of 1948.  I was fortunate to know Grandmother Timmons for the first 4 years of my life, and have some clear memories of her.  I grew up watching my mother make tea (albeit Lipton tea) in this teapot, and as an adult, she gave it to me.  I made tea from it for many years.  Sadly, after I moved to Mississippi, an accident with hanging a tea cup on the rack above it resulted in the handle breaking off.  I repaired it, but have retired it from use so as not to further damage it…not to mention one does not need glue in your tea.  Back in my Texas days, I found two of the McCormick tea pots in one of the local Abilene stores I frequented, and bought one for myself and one for a student who loved stopping by my office with other students and colleagues for afternoon tea.  Black Ruby and San Francisco. jpg

Today’s tea is Rakkasan’s Black Ruby from Nepaland I hope you will take time to read the story at the link for Nepal’s “likely the only woman-owned tea estate in Nepal.”  Milan Kumari Katri’s black tea from the Himalayan foothills has “notes of chocolate, black cherries and even a hint of strawberry.”  Yes, it was the story of this woman, and this business, that prompted me to order Black Ruby.  It is one of my favorites, and next to Nepal’s Himalayan Golden Tips, likely the one I drink the most.

Black Ruby in Johnson Bros Histori America

The tea cup today is Johnson Brothers Historic America Series, “San Francisco During the Gold Rush.”  Johnson Brothers has a long and storied history in England, founded 1883 and by the end of that century, all four brothers were in the business.  Their most famous development was transferware, and this is one of the many in that design series.  Transferware was a scene surrounded by a border design.  While the design was fairly easy to locate, none of the photographs I could find had the border circling the interior of the cup, yet the stamp on the bottom seemed to indicate it was not a knock off.cup handle and interior

I am nothing if not persistent.  The B designation stamped onto the bottom of the cup meant it was manufactured during World War II, and only certain factories could produce from 1942 and forward during the war.  B meant this cup was produced 1942-1952, and certain modifications were permitted for dishes to be exported to the US, as one would assume the Historic America Series was.  The interior border cup (as above) was marketed INSANFRAN and those without the border were marked OUTSANFRAN.  The series was discontinued in 1974.


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8 Responses to Three on a Wire: McCormick, Johnson Brothers, and Rakkasan

  1. Beth says:

    Totally interesting post! I would love to be one of your students and drop by for tea, how fortunate they are to have had that experience. I think the one thing I miss most from my college days are the dialogues we had both during class and otherwise. We didn’t share tea, but sometimes we had tacos at a nearby regional Mexican food place. The teapot, the tea, and the cup combine into a delightful interlude in a time where we need all the pleasant distractions we can find.

    The design on the teacup reminds me of Boston Harbor. Johnson Bros. also make Blue Willow and I have a few of their pieces. I’m always drawn to their heavy pottery cups and the designs they feature.


    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Beth, and indeed, this evolved into a fun mystery for me. I was blessed indeed with wonderful colleagues and students who stopped by for tea–you know, that student still sends me a Christmas card and note every year updating me. He has done very well in his career, and it is always a joy to hear from him–his mother and I were childhood playmates when I visited my aunt and uncle. While I have had tea with my Grad Assistant from Nepal sharing the Nepal Himalayan Golden Tips, I have rarely had tea time with colleagues here, and now, doubt I ever will have the opportunity again.

      Yes, Boston Harbor, and several others in the series were similar. I have one other Johnson Bros, and at one time, had the Friendly Village tea cup. Some get broken and on occasion, I have gifted some to my niece who collects vintage mid-century dishes also, so hard to say what happened to it. Hopefully tomorrow I will be back on schedule. I missed my tea hour this morning as I had so much on the Zoom plate I settled for coffee from the Keurig, and let me say, it was totally unsatisfying!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth says:

        What a lovely story about your student staying in touch, so often today we don’t make the effort. I drink coffee first – first thing. But then later when I eat a bite of breakfast I want a cup of tea then. Sadly, I’m missing my thrift store scavenger hunts and the treasures I found.


  2. janebye says:

    All so very interesting! Thanks!


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