Entrepreneur Robert Crawford Johnson discovered how to avoid spilling your tea while on board ship – he invented a square teapot that would not tip over!
For years designers had wracked their brains to create the ideal teapot for sea travel. What was needed was one that didn’t drip, would not overturn in rough weather and could be easily stored without chipping the spout. Rather than change the whole teapot design, other designers concentrated on one of these "defects" in their endeavours. By creating a square teapot with the spout neatly tucked away in a corner, Johnson solved all the problems at once.
He registered his Cube Teapot in 1917 but it was not put into production until 1920. Some other companies decided to muscle-in on Johnson’s brainchild by producing similar pots which were not under licence. Johnson hit back by forming Cube Teapots Ltd in 1925 under an "Accept No Imitations" marketing banner. Sales stunts included a “living window display” featuring a lady pouring the perfect cup of tea from a Cube Teapot.
Square teapots were adopted by major shipping companies such as Cunard. There are several featured in displays at Merseyside Maritime Museum – they were used on the Queen Mary and earlier Cunard ships.
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