Learn to identify Mirror Brown, or Brown Drip Hull pottery. Explore the background of Hull and understand what to look for when collecting pieces.
Mirror Brown, or Brown Drip Hull Pottery is stoneware, which was made from 1960 through 1986 — the year that The Hull Pottery Company went out of business. It was an extremely popular line of dinnerware, often used in promotional grocery store sales. The two lines featuring mirror brown finish were Hull’s House and Garden line and its Crestone line. These pieces of stoneware are still highly collectible and sought after.
Hull Pottery History and Background
The A. E. Hull Pottery Company was founded in 1905 by Addis Emmet Hull. He had been very involved in pottery and stoneware manufacture for a few years before this in Ohio. The company made stoneware, art pottery, florist pots, garden ware, semi-porcelain and decorative tile, which was very popular in the late 1920’s.
Prior to the Great Depression in the 1930s, the company had also purchased less expensive European pottery for resale in the United States. This practice stopped, however, during the Depression and was never revived afterwards. The company’s focus on producing affordable stoneware during this time kept it solvent.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Hull art pottery enjoyed a loyal following. One of its most popular pieces was the ‘Red Riding Hood’ cookie jar. It was so popular that an entire line was spun off of this one design. The cookie jar is very valuable to this day. Many counterfeit copies have been made in an attempt to lure the unsuspecting collector. Other popular art pieces include matte finished pastel flower vases.
Disaster Strikes A. E. Hull Pottery Company
June of 1950 brought a disastrous fire to Hull’s plant. It burnt down totally and had to be rebuilt. The company was so popular, however, that it was sustained by orders that customers knew they would have to wait for — for up to two years. After the rebuilding, the company shortened its name to The Hull Pottery Company and introduced many newer, innovative products.
The House and Garden Series and Introduction of Mirror Brown Stoneware
The House and Garden series was developed in the early 1960s to appeal to a casual lifestyle. It was oven proof and heavy — meant to be durable and able stand years of wear. Mirror Brown was one of the first colors in the series to be introduced and remained the most popular up until The Hull Company’s demise in 1986 — after labor disputes and foreign competition forced the company to close its doors.
A deep, rich brown glaze overlaid with a white glaze dripped onto the edges of the stoneware piece characterizes the Mirror Brown finish. The edges of the pieces exhibit a spatter or foamy effect. Pieces are also finished with a high gloss coat of clear glaze.
Many different kinds of pottery were made with this finish. Hull teapots and mixing bowls in this finish are highly collectible, as are bean pots, casserole dishes — both covered and uncovered, handled soup bowls, and various other pieces. Tableware sets include salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowls, creamers, dinner plates, salad or dessert plates, two sizes of bowls, cups, saucers, and beverage steins. Pitchers and a chip and dip leaf-shaped serving dish were also made with this finish.
Identifying Hull Mirror Brown Drip Pottery
Fortunately, Hull Mirror Brown drip pottery is fairly easy to recognize. The maker’s marks on the bottom of the pieces are fairly distinctive. The word ‘hull’ in all lowercase sans serif lettering is often present on the bottom of the pieces. Sometimes, it is present with a copyright symbol. Another common mark is ‘H P © Co’.
Not all pieces in the mirror brown series, however, have the word ‘hull’ or any other indication of the manufacturing company on the bottom of the piece. These pieces can still be identified as Hull pottery by the distinctive ‘Oven Proof u.s.a.’ script lettering that is often present. One of the pictures at the bottom of this article clearly shows these markings on a number of pieces to help familiarize a collector with them.
What to Look for When Collecting Hull Mirror Brown Pottery
When collecting Hull Mirror Brown pottery certain characteristic will give pieces more value. Look for glaze that is free of wear and scratch marks from utensils. Also, avoid any chipped pottery. Especially, be careful to look for chips under lid rims and on the bottoms of pieces, where they may be less noticeable. Sometimes, the glaze has bubble defects that have popped and exposed unglazed portions. These do not necessarily detract from a piece, if they are original to it. Beware also of uneven pieces that may have been factory seconds.
In addition, there are many other companies that also manufactured pottery with a Mirror Brown finish. Many collectors find that they like to mix and match Mirror Brown pieces from other companies such as McCoy and Pfaltzgraff with their Hull Pottery pieces. Also, Hull pottery made other colors in their House and Garden and Crestone lines with a foam drip edge. Some hobbyists like to add these to their collection. Colors made in those lines that complement Mirror Brown include Tangerine, Butterscotch, Green Agate, and Turquoise.
Hull Pottery Collecting as a Rewarding Hobby
Although many collectors seek after Hull Mirror Brown drip pottery, it is still plentiful and often easy to find. Good collecting sources include garage and yard sales, flea markets, and antique stores. Usually, pieces can also be found on online auction sites. The pieces are generally reasonably priced and can make a table and kitchen look casually elegant.