“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

JL George Furniture – Made in Shanghai…

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 | No Comments »

I’ve blogged about JL George furniture of Shanghai before (use the search engine to your right, as ever).

George’s was up on Avenue Road, now Beijing West Road, that ran parallel to the Bubbling Well Road right to the western edge of the Settlement. Like many retailers of the 1930s looking to dodge sudden rent rises (nothing new there then) George appears to have moved around – at 1475-1477 in 1930 but also listed at No.805 at times. Their telephone number was 34732, by the way.

J.L. George appeared to be obviously foreign-owned though using Chinese craftsman – mostly originating from Dongyang in Zhejiang. In fact the company was owned by Shuang Hong Tai. We could speculate why Shuang used a western name of course – issues of trust and reliability were similar then as often today. Whatever the reason, Shanghailanders made the store popular.

Shuang hired low cost rural carpenters and craftsmen and brought them to Shanghai. This was a tradition begun in the early 1900s in Hangzhou before the furniture “factories” realised the potential size of the coastal Shanghai market and the spending power of Shanghailanders. Each one of their objects was stamped “Made in China” (which had a rather better reputation then than now!). The company moved to Hong Kong in 1949 to escape the communists and remained in business for some time after that as J.L. Georges. Interestingly, looking at various adverts from the 1930s – the company switched between J.L. George and J.L. Georges quite often. Items of furniture made by J.L. George come up for auction quite often, but due to the not completely great quality, the abundance of items they produced and their relative newness they don’t attract much money. However, they are of interest as being a staple brand found in Shanghailander homes.

I get sent photos of a lot of JL George furniture, which is always interesting to see. However, 90% of what i get shown is post-1949 Hong Kong-made pieces. These are more commonly and attract somewhat less interest at auction. Wonderful then that Patti Bradfield from America shared with me images of some of her parents Shanghai-made JL George. They originally belonged, I believe, to an uncle of hers who was interned in Shanghai during the war.

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