George Hall displayed considerable foresight when he founded one of South Australia’s first aerated waters companies in Marryatville in 1851. The highly successful company produced an award-winning product, established a national reputation, and provided employment and training for a large number of South Australians. The Halls label survived for 149 years. As we embark on the 21st century, soft drinks continue to be the major beverage and indeed the major consumable product sold in supermarkets in this country. Although American brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi dominate the Australian soft drink market today, this country has had its own significant soft drink producers. One of the earliest and longest-lived brands was the South Australian company of George Hall & Sons.
Early Life and journey to South Australia
Hall was born in Waldron, Sussex, England, on 19th March 1818, the son of William and Frances Hall. He left school in his mid-teens to take up an apprenticeship as a laundryman, at the same time pursuing the brewing of non-alcoholic beverages as a hobby. By the age of 29 he was employed in an Irish laundry and was married with children. Political and religious upheavals in their homeland prompted George and his wife Ellen (née Crawford) to emigrate to Australia. They arrived at Port Adelaide in June 1849 on the Florentia and took up residence on Ringmore (later Dudley) Road, Marryatville. Hall acquired a regular job as a steward at the Adelaide Club.
By 1851 he had established himself as a soda-water maker who specialized in the brewing of the fine ‘Stonie’ ginger beer, sold at that time in ceramic jars. The soda-water came in a long bottle, which was corked and wired and had a round base. It could not be stood upright except in a holder specially made for it. Bottles were filled one at a time, using a single-headed Lamont filling machine, and deliveries to customers in nearby suburbs were made by hand-truck. In later years the long bottle was replaced by 6 oz. and 10 oz. bottles, fitted with ebonite and rubber stoppers.
Foundation of Hall’s soft-drink company
In 1869 Hall’s position was secure enough to enable his sons Henry, Thomas and Edward to join him in the firm, which became known as Geo. Hall & Sons. In 1872 the company moved to a former soap and candle factory on Edward Street, Norwood, where they were able to make excellent use of a natural spring which provided pure water for their cordials and aerated waters.
Prizes and achievements
These products achieved notable success both locally and internationally. By the late 1870s Hall had progressed from delivery by hand-truck to a much larger-scale operation using a horse and cart, and was one of the colony’s leading producers of aerated waters. The many prizes for their products included first prize at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 and this success encouraged them to enter six different products in the 1880 International Exhibition in London. Their confidence in the unbeatable quality of their products was rewarded with six first prizes. The South Australian Register of 30th April 1880 reported, ‘Messrs. Hall & Sons (of Norwood) Aerated Waters are pronounced to be a most extraordinary success, and have completely defeated all the European, American and Australian exhibits in all the six kinds exhibited. Every Water shown by Hall & Sons obtained a first class prize. The judges expressed great astonishment, and attributed the results to the supremacy of the Adelaide water.’
In 1881, one year after his great triumph, George Hall died on 24th April and was buried at West Terrace Cemetery. The managership of the firm was carried on by his sons Henry and Edward, and later by third and fourth generation family members. It went on producing high quality cordials and aerated waters until it was sold to Coca-Cola in 1972. The Halls name continued to be used on some popular soft drinks until the label was discontinued in October 2000.