Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

March 5, 2013

What’s in the Attic? UHL pottery

Greensburg — Business was booming for the Uhl family, of Lisberg Germany, in the 1840s.

But August Uhl had dreams of going to America, the land of opportunity. So in 1848 he left his home and his father’s business in pursuit of that dream.

After months of travel by river boat, testing clay samples along the Ohio River, he settled in Evansville. Within the year, he was joined by his younger brother Louis, and “A & L UHL” of Evansville was formed.

It seemed like a winning combination with August managing the business and Louis making jugs, jars, garden vases and stone pumps. But success was not immediately at hand, for the clay of Evansville turned out to be a lesser quality than August had originally thought. The product was substandard, and the company suffered substantial losses.

Hearing rumor of the rich clay deposit of nearby Huntingburg, he once again set out to test soil samples.

This time he found the high quality clay the company needed and  “A & L UHL” began transporting the rich clay to their Evansville location by boat and mule-pulled drays. While this raised the quality of their products, transport was timely and expensive. So, in 1897 Louis Uhl bought out his brother’s interest in the company and with his son, George, relocated to Huntingburg reopening the pottery under the name “UHL & Son.”

In 1908, the ownership of the company underwent yet another change when George Uhl sold his interest to his brother Charles and the factory was renamed, “The UHL Pottery Company.” For the better part of the next four decades they experienced great success with their famous “Acorn Wares” that were sold to stores, resorts and wineries through out the US and Canada. The company, which survived World War I, The Great Depression and the majority of World War II, closed in the mid-1940’s due to a labor dispute.

Crocks, jugs and garden/utilitarian ware are the most common UHL pieces. Christmas jugs, hand-turned pieces, miniatures and novelty items are harder to find and will demand a higher price. The color of glaze is also a determinate to price with teal, purple, blue and mauve selling for more than yellow, pumpkin, white, black, and brown/tan.

Pieces made before 1920 were painstakingly hand-turned by kick wheel. This process required the potter to continually pump a lever while forming a flat disc of clay into the desired shape. Each piece was completely formed by the potters hands, a sponge and a flat piece of wood called a “rib.”

A unique feature of UHL pottery from this era was the slip glaze used to line each piece. Made from mineral deposits that are only found in Albany, N.Y., the result was an acid proof mahogany colored lining that was both aesthetically appealing and practical. These early pieces are of particular interest to collectors.

Identification can require some study as several marks were used through the years and 70 percent of all older UHL items are unmarked. Newer pieces, made by the Uhl family, have been dated since 1991 to avoid confusion with the highly collectible pieces from the original factory.

For a rare chance to view the works of the UHL Pottery Company mark your calendars for Sunday, March 10 when the Cuskaden Auction Service in St. Paul will be offering more than 70 pieces from a private collection for sale. For pictures and full details go to www.cuskadenauctions.com. Hope to see you there.

Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or lkennett@indy.rr.com.

 

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