Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A teacup from Emery, Bird, Thayer in Kansas City

As a lifelong lover of shopping, I assumed I knew the names of most popular department stores in this country. While researching old department store tea rooms, however, I have learned there were far more of these stores than I ever dreamed possible, and to learn about them is to learn something new about the history of America. One store I'd never heard of at all was Emery, Bird, Thayer in Kansas City, Missouri, which once held tea parties for children and their dolls. This bright orange miniature cup and saucer was a souvenir from one of these parties. When I bought it, it was actually described as coming from Emery Bird "Chayer," but I can see why.

Since acquiring this cup and saucer with a cat on it (beneath the word "Bird," ironically enough!), I've also seen photos of the same design of orange cup and saucer featuring an elephant and a teddy bear. Do you suppose the little girls got to choose which animal they wanted? It sure beats a Happy Meal toy, doesn't it! The design of this set is interesting because it is scratched into the color. I learned this technique is called "sgraffito." When I first read that word, I thought, "Bless their hearts, they don't know how to spell 'graffiti,' do they?" But then I learned "sgraffito" is correct and comes from the Italian word meaning "to scratch."

The set was made by the Germany company Erphila, and though I don't know the date, other designs of Dolls Tea Party sets from Emery, Bird, Thayer date to the early 1900s, so perhaps this one does as well. (And if not, maybe it got to be in the store when its most famous employee, the future actress Joan Crawford, worked there!) Part of the store lives on in Kansas City today, in the form of the EBT Restaurant whose design incorporates artifacts from the old store. If I'm ever in Kansas City, I definitely will pay a visit! I'd love to know more about Emery, Bird, Thayer – especially about its former tea room – so if any Missourians are reading today I'd dearly love to hear from you via the e-mail button at right!


  1. this information is so so so interesting. I thank you for sharing it, Angela! I also thank you for your comments on my blog today, what a treat.

  2. So pretty and what a wonderful treat that must have been for each young girl.

  3. Very fascinating! I thought I knew most of the department store names too, but this is one I have never heard of.

  4. What a cute teacup!!! And a lovely little piece of KC history. I'm not a Missourian, and it was before my time in the area, but the department store used to be on Petticoat Lane (11th St.) and then it moved to the Plaza. The EBT restaurant still exists, right next to St Joseph hospital.

  5. Thank your sharing the teacup from EBT. I grew up in Kansas City, MO, shopped many a time at the department store. As I recall, it had many floors.

    My class senior pictures were done at the Emery, Bird, Thayer department store--1967.

    Stop by for a visit sometime: www.teatimeconsultants.blogspot

  6. Hello, the design on that teacup!

    Spending several years in Missouri, I'm sorry to say I was never in that store, BUT, Kansas City, Missouri is a lovely, lovely city - well worth visiting:

    Especially at Christmastime!
    They light up 'The Plaza' area & there are carriage rides and beautiful 'store windows' to gaze at...and of course, you could probably take a tour of the Hallmark Card Company. Very nice folks too - I highly recommend it!
    I always enjoy your site, Joanie

  7. EBT was a beautiful store. They had a fantastic tearoom and once a year little girls brought their dolls. They left with souvenir cups. I cannot find mine but wish I could. My mother took my grandmother to the tearoom after the war and they had a woman who read your tea leaves.

  8. I'm 65 and my father was the last president of Emery, Bird & Thayer Co. I would like to make some corrections to some of the prior comments. Not out of any maliciousness, just to add what is, perhaps, more accurate. EBT was considered, in its day to be the finest department store west of the Mississippi. First of all, the store did not move from downtown to The Country Club Plaza (the first shopping center ever developed in the United States); it merely expanded but kept its original location. The Tea Room closed shortly after the end of WWII. The 'everyday' china used in the Tea Room, was made in Limoges, France by the Theodore Haviland Company. My mother obtained a service for 20 after the Tea Room was closed - unfortunately, the storage unit in which it was stored, burned down...a pity. The restaurant 2 which someone referred has not connection to the old store other than using some of the collectables, such as the very elaborate cage elevators. The downtown store was amazing, truly belonging to Le Belle Epoch, the quality of the merchandise was the finest available. On a somewhat bitter note, a noted poet & financier bought the store. My father tried to buy it, but the last, aforementioned owner, liquidated all the merchandise & at least 800 people were without jobs, many of whom had worked there for more than fifty years. Those ex-employees met for many years after its demise in 1968. Hope this information has been of some use. John Cannon

  9. I own service for 10 from the EBT tearoom made by Theodore Haviland circa 1903.

    It will be on display from now until the end of August at the Vaile Mansion, Independence, MO.


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