Clayton Mayers and the Davidson Company

If you were to ask anyone to name a suite of 20th Century glassware, then the name Jacobean would be at the top of the list. The distinctive style of Jacobean glassware made it a favourite from 1923, when it was first introduced, right up until the 1960s and beyond. There is probably more Jacobean glassware around than any other style of pressed glass. Jacobean was made in Czechoslovakia by Josef Inwald A.G. and imported into the UK by the remarkable company of Clayton Mayers & Co. Ltd.

The firm of Clayton Mayers was founded in 1860 By James Clayton Mayers in the Somerset town of  The Devizes. James, or J.C. as he was called, took over a shop and from that small beginning came the Clayton Mayers company . Throughout its long life it has always been a family firm with second and even third generation Mayers taking an active part in the running of the company and in designing its products. Whilst it is best known for Jacobean glassware, the firm was essentially a wholesale supplier of both glassware and pottery to shops all around the country.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, James moved the company to London and set up offices in Grays Inn Road. James would be seen  travelling around London in a horse drawn Chaise with his samples in basket panniers. Some of his largest supplies at that time included Davidson, Moor and Baccarat. Advertising was always seen by James as an important part of doing business. Clayton Mayers advertised heavily in trade journals such as the Pottery Gazette, as well as in consumer journals such as Ideal Homes, Punch and later the TV Times. In the 1950s they were the first glass company to advertise on the new medium of television. Heavy advertising and promotion were a key factor in the success of Jacobean. Indeed in 1929 they were offering a free window display to their customers.

By 1923, when Clayton Mayers first introduced Jacobean glassware, they were selling a wide range of glassware from the UK, Czechoslovakia Norway and Belgium. As well as suites of table glassware they were selling tumblers, wines, caraffes, flower tubes and cut lead crystal glassware. The 'Dazzlex'  range of cut crystal glassware included over 70 different articles and was still being sold in the 1960s.

 In 1923 they introduced the Jacobean range and in  December of that year Clayton Mayers registered the first of the Jacobean registered designs (17th December 1923 No 702446). Over the next three years, Clayton Mayers registered no fewer than 18 new designs, although not all were for Jacobean glassware.

Jacobean was an instant success, and within a few years of its introduction there were 150 different items in the range. This had increased to 275 by the start of the war, although most items in the range are extremely rare today. Produced mainly in flint glass, Jacobean can also be found in colours such as Blue, Green, Amber and in rare instances Marigold Carnival glass (for an article on Carnival Jacobean visit Glen and Steve Thistlewood's carnival web site at http://www.geocities.com/carni_glass_uk_2000/Jacob2.html.

Jacobean was not the only glassware Clayton Mayers sold in the 1920s. Other ranges included Coronet - a pressed glass design introduced in 1928, Dazzlex, Sheraton, Vine and Ganymede. Many of these ranges were hand-cut  lead crystal. Dazzlex was still being made in the 1960s. In 1930 they introduced a new line Durobor Herculedge 'Safedge Glassware'. The tumblers and like in this range were 'Guaranteed unchippable on the edge'. A later advert was to have the tag line 'If you chip it, you change it!'. The Herculedge name was trademarked and protected by patents. Herculdege was imported from Belgium.

In 1931 Clayton Mayers moved their offices to Cricklewood on the North Circular road, London. They also opened a new showroom in a new building at No. 44 Holborn Gardens, London. The showroom was only 300 yards from Holborn Circus which was the heart of  the Pottery and Glassware London showrooms. An article in the Pottery Gazette gave a glowing account of the showroom saying

'Clayton Mayers & Co., Ltd. the well known merchants and distributors of table glassware of 'Jacobean' fame, have recently removed their London showrooms from Gary's Inn Road to St Georges House, 44 Hatton Gardens E.C.1 a brand new building that is entirely devoted to suites of offices and showrooms situated not more than 300 yards from Holborn-circus and therefore well within the recognised zone of pottery and glass showrooms. A liberal amount of spaces has been acquired by Clayton Mayers & Co., Ltd., in this new building and they have had fitted up on the most attractive lines a spacious new showroom containing a full range of their various lines in table glass, from very moderately priced goods up to the most expensive. Of this new showroom we are please to give an illustration. An interesting provision in connection with the new suite of showrooms is a beautifully furnished rest-room which has been provided for the use of the firm's customers. Buyers who maybe paying calls in the Holborn-circus district and who feel the need of a rest, or who may have occasion to do some writing or use the telephone, are freely invited by Clayton Mayers & Co., Ltd., to make use of this room where they can be left undisturbed for a while under comfortable conditions. With regard to the showrooms it would be quite impossible for us to attempt to describe all that it contains, but we can a least refer to some of the outstanding features of its range of samples. First and foremost, of course, there is a full collection - 200 articles or more - in the noted "Jacobean" range of pressed and polished ware. No one needs reminding of the characteristics of such a well known line of glassware, which is encountered universally. Another very interesting line is a range of lemonade sets in various colours. Offered in blue, green and amber the 'Jacobean' is one of the leading sets, but some plainer and cheaper sets, known as the 'Angmering', 'Wimbledon' and 'Frinton' offered in several alternative colourings are proving much in demand. There are many attractive lines in the new, coloured bubbly glass, including a range of fruit sets, and there are some good embossed and painted fruit and dessert sets which strike one as being very reasonably priced. In full crystal one of the leading and best known lines is the 'Sheraton' which is both cut and etched. This is a period type of pattern true to the name which it bears, More elaborately cut  is the 'Waverly' series and of super-cutting is the 'Dazzlex'. Everything that is likely to be called for in household glass would seem to be catered for by this house. In services there is everything from full wine suites down to smaller complements, such as liqueur sets, cocktail sets, boudoir sets, grape fruit sets, etc.; whilst under the heading of miscellaneous lines there is an assortment of articles of apparently endless variety. Clayton Mayers & Co., Ltd., are nothing if they are not publicity experts, and there is probably no distributive house in the pottery and glass trades which does more, by well though-out literature, to help its customers by creating demand. They issue a copiously illustrated catalogue, and this is priced at retail figures throughout, so that it can be freely utilised in the shop and used for the purpose of obtaining orders. The recognised trade discount from these scheduled prices is allowed. They also regularly issue their 'Bulletin' which they send gratis to every dealer on their mailing list. We can certainly recommend our readers to make a point of visiting the new showrooms in St. George's House, Hatton Garden. It would, no doubt, also be a real education to many retailers to pay a visit to the extensive distributing premises in North Circular Road, Cricklewood, which for their layout and equipment are practically unrivalled in the wholesaling circles of the pottery and glass trades. Clayton Mayers &Co. Ltd., are, without doubt, a very live concern. In conclusion, we may mention that they are at the present time actively interesting themselves in the production of a cinema film, the purpose of which is to assist the sale of one of their leading proprietary lines in glass. Which indicates how desirous they are of assisting their customers in any legitimate and promising way.'

The design of the showroom, complete with a rest room, was designed to attract the dealers. The idea of producing an advertising film for the cinema showed their strong belief in good advertising. The film was made and was shown in 550 cinemas in October 1931. The film, entitled 'Address Parade', included 'A visit to Miss Madeleine Carroll's Flat' a scene which demonstrated the beauty & utility of Jacobean glassware. Miss Madeleine Carroll was the Jacobean hostess for 1931

Around this time Eric Mayers, younger son of James, patented a method of packing mixed quantities of glassware under pressure into cardboard boxes. This method which was still in use as late as 1960.

The price of imported glassware became more expensive in late 1931. Firstly Britain came off the gold standard and as a result to value of the pound fell. A falling pound made imports more expensive and exports cheaper. The falling price caused some imports to rise as much as 28%. Then in November 1931 an anti-dumping order was issued under the 'Abnormal Importation (Custom Duties) Act' of 1931. As from November 25th of 1931, all imports of pottery and glass were subject to a 50% duty. As Jacobean was a low price product, Clayton Mayers could not afford to raise prices too much. So they turned to Davidson to make Jacobean in the UK. In the early months of 1932 they were forced to raise the price of Jacobean slightly, but then in May they proudly announced that Jacobean Tumblers were now British made. They were able to reverse the price rise and very quickly they announced that Jacobean jugs were also British made. The Jacobean range was now being made by Davidson, and soon all of the Jacobean range, and other Clayton Mayers glassware ranges were being made by Davidson. Clayton Mayers made the fact of the British origin a selling point and this featured prominently in their advertising for the rest of 1932. The contract was very lucrative for Davidson and led to further orders in later years.

( The antidumping order was short lived and on April 1st 1932 new tariffs came into force and the order was revoked. Imported domestic glassware now had a lower 20% tariff. This angered the UK glassware industry. )

Part of the success of Jacobean was its low price and high quality. Clayton Mayers were always looking for ways to keep the price down and at the start of the war they turned to making machine-made Jacobean glassware. The switch to machine-made Jacobean meant that there had to be some small changes to the design. A side effect was that the machine made glassware was lighter and, they said, of a higher quality than the hand pressed kind. With the move to machine made glassware, The amount of pressed glass Davidson made for Clayton Mayers fell, but this was more than offset by the introduction of Toughened Tumblers.

In 1940 Clayton Mayers introduced the 'Crystolac' Toughened Tumblers. Theses were made by Davidson and proved to be vital in helping Davidson survive the war and the turmoil in the years that followed. In 1942 Toughened Tumblers produced a 14,000 increase in revenue for Davidson. Towards the end of the 1940s, 17% of Davidson's turnover came from Clayton Mayers, nearly 14% from Toughened Tumblers alone. Davidson were to continue to make tumblers for Clayton Mayers up until the 1960s.

By the 1950s, with the exception of toughened tumblers and some imported glassware, all of Clayton Mayers range was now machine made. The move to machine made glassware had a radical impact on the design process. Whereas with handmade glassware they could sample a line in an afternoon, it could now take years to perfect a machine made article. The 'Claymer' range of glassware illustrates this point very well. Eric Mayers began the design of this range a few years before his death in 1955. The first article produced in the range was a tumbler (which won a Council of Industrial Design award), but it took until 1957, two years after his death, before a jug in this design started to roll of the production line.

Although Clayton Mayers did not make the glass themselves, decorating and packing took place at the North London site. They also had a small melting furnace which was used to investigate the mechanical properties of glass. In 1957 this was said to be the smallest oil-fired furnace in England.

In 1962 big changes occurred at Clayton Mayers. H. G. Mayers retired as chairman at the age of 76. Johnsen & Jorgensen, another wholesale supplier of glass (founded 1906), bought a substantial stake in Clayton Mayers. Johnsen & Jorgensen sold a wide range of glassware including Sherdley. It the early years of the century they were best known for making jars and decanters; some of their designs were registered.

The company announced that it was to expand into the new field of high quality decoration of domestic glassware and appointed R.K Symmons as Marketing Directory. Symmons came from Black & Decker and immediately introduced changes in the way the company used sales statistics to forecast future marketing requirements. He was also responsible for introducing a new series of consumer leaflets designed to push the companies products. Changes in packaging were also introduced to enhance the company name. For example instead of loose orders being packed in wood-wool and straw, they were packed in cartons of standard design the Clayton Mayers and product name.

New machinery was purchased to partially automate the glass cutting and polishing process. These machines, imported from America, were first used in the new Monarch range of cut calcium crystal sherries and goblets. The Monarch range was cut and acid polished and embellished with unpolished stars. Calcium crystal could be sold at 1/3 of the cost of conventional lead crystal. New lehrs were also introduced to improve the enamelling process of decorating glass. Over the next few years new designs such as Wessex, Colour Craft,  Madison, Ganymede, English Rose (based on Victoria and Albert Museum designs) and "Age of Chivalry" (design based on Medieval knights in armour) were introduced. The bright colourful designs reflected the style of the 1960s.

After the mid 1960s, the name of Clayton Mayers fades from view. The Johnsen & Jorgensen company are still in business today, but what happened to Clayton Mayers? We are still researching their later history.

Clayton Mayers Registered Designs

The following table lists the Clayton Mayers registered designs up to 1940.

Design Number Date Design Number Date
       

553476

1 December 1909

716035

16 September 1925

680571

24 January 1921

719077

16 February 1926

702446

17 December 1933

719644

16 September 1925

705632

15 May 1924

721365

27 May 1926

707091

19 July 1924

723615

31 August 1926

707762 - 707763

1 September 1924

735621

15 February 1928

709052 - 709054

7 November 1924

750112

15 November 1929

709314

21 November 1924

791409

22 March 1934

710214 - 710216

5 January 1924

810370

29 February 1936

711883

21 March 1925

   

Copyright (c) Chris and Val Stewart 2003-2004