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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Earthen Legacy

 It was 1970 when Dan Hadley of Evansville saw an old blue pitcher at a yard sale.

“My mother had just redone her bedroom all in blue, so I bought this to give her,” he says. He had purchased his first piece of Uhl pottery, never suspecting he was indulging a fascination that would become a lifelong commitment.

Formed from the clay of necessity and fired in the pride of history, Uhl pieces have come to symbolize the industrious life of early residents of Southern Indiana and surrounding areas.

The pieces are the source of inspiration behind the Uhl Collectors Society. Formed in 1985, the group, founded in Huntingburg, Indiana, currently has more than 200 members.

German immigrants, brothers August and Louis Uhl, started the Uhl Pottery Company in Evansville in the late-1800s. In 1908, it moved closer to its clay source of Huntingburg. Production continued until 1944.

The mainstay was utilitarian products — jars, vases, jugs, crocks — that filled homes and farms throughout the region.

Teri Bouchie, the society’s press secretary and proprietor of Country Pickin’s Antiques & Produce, in Washington, Indiana, says the local community treasures the pottery today for its history and craftsmanship.

“They still use the Uhl,” she says.

Decorative items came later. In the 1920s, family member Jane Uhl made art pieces. Meanwhile the company supplied Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Tennessee and Meier’s Wine Cellars in Cincinnati with advertising miniatures.

“Those are hard to find and very sought-after,” says Hadley, adding he’s seen a Jane Uhl work sell for $2,000 and a Daniel’s jug fetch $5,000.
Many collectors specialize.

“I like the Egyptian or Grecian style,” says society member Jim Uhl of Byron Center, Michigan, who is no relation to the makers but says he was first drawn in by the name he shares with them. Hadley collects jugs. Another member sticks strictly to miniatures.

“A lot of people collect by color,” says Bouchie. They want nothing but pink, brown, yellow, blue, or purple pieces.

Uhl marked only about 10 percent of its products with its acorn logo, but designs are distinctive and the quality unmistakable, she says.

Society President Larry Snyder of Washington has hundreds of pieces, and says some members have thousands.

Membership allows collectors to share their passion, attend the annual June convention and closed auction, and entitles them to the year’s specially designed commemorative. Dues are $16 a year.

For more information about the Uhl Collectors Society or to join, visit uhlcollectors.com.

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