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“The Potters, Kilns, & Stoneware of Upper Alton, Illinois” is a large-scale 270 page synthesis and summation of the Upper Alton traditional family potters, their Nineteenth Century pottery workshops, their home sites, their wares produced, and their identifiable handcraft traits.
As America’s Midwest frontier regions became settled in the early Nineteenth Century, many seeking improved social, economic, and religious conditions took advantage of the opportunity to obtain quality ground at low prices. Beside the affluent land speculators from the East, this opportunity attracted a variety of trades and was a promising means for many to sustaining better livelihoods. Most common were families geared toward obtaining good ground for farming, and some farmers potted on the side to satisfy their personal household and storage needs. Occasionally, their important secondary side talent of potting expanded to provide wares to neighboring farms and the immediate community. Pot making then grew further into their primary business at hand and farming became a secondary family task. Opportunistic potters soon established their pottery operations. Among them were the operations of Ulrich-Wietfeld, Isaac E. Warnack, William J. Mahar, George Swettenham, and the brothers Julius and Henry Wilhelms.
Hoping to obtain personal property, prestige, and a much improved quality of life for their family, many made the early Nineteenth Century trek that evolved from Europe to American eastern States, to settlements in Ohio and Tennessee, and removed onward to Upper Alton, Madison County, Illinois. Hard work promised many rewards in the Illinois “land of milk and honey.” Evident at Upper Alton was this opportunity and need for hard work. Here manufactured were an assortment of clay ceramic vessels “of every description,” for utilitarian use. Vessels bearing hand applied cobalt decorations are rare. Scarce are novelty art, and end of day creations. All were treasures of the Upper Alton mother.
Upper Alton Stoneware and Potters
of 19th Century Madison County, Illinois
Warnack, Ulrich-Wietfeld, Mahar, Swettenham, Wilhelms, Buck Inn
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