The Tea Which Built an Empire


"Monarch" Black Tea Tin by Reid, Murdoch & Co. (LEO Design)


Reid, Murdoch & Company was founded by two Scotsmen in Chicago in 1853.  They built a food supply empire—and championed the survival of "Mom & Pop" grocery stores from coast-to-coast.  During their roughly 100 years in business, which was a time when large grocery chains gobbled-up (or displaced) small food stores, Reid, Murdoch insisted upon only selling to small retailers (not chains).  They had a wide range of products, sold under the Monarch label, which gave small stores well-priced, quality items.  Because their goods were sold in thousands of small shops nationwide, these small retailers enjoyed an economies-of-scale (a buying power) which allowed them to compete with the larger, more powerful chains.  Jams, pickles, coffees, teas, cocoas—sold across the country—paid for the company's handsome and iconic red brick building at 325 North LaSalle Street, alongside the Chicago River.  Built in 1913, the seven story Reid Murdoch Building—with its iconic clock tower—is now a protected historical landmark.  Alas, the Reid, Murdoch business could not be protected.  The company was shuttered in the 1960's, as "modern" destination supermarkets won-over the wallets of post-war grocery shoppers.  Today the building houses the workers of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  I pray that this company finds a way to survive in the modern world.

The "Black Tea" canister, shown above, was shipped by Reid, Murdoch in the 1920's.  I could not resist the proud lion in the logo—or the story of a large company working to ensure the survival of small businesses.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248