THE COLLECTORS OF ILLINOIS POTTERY & STONEWARE
Upper Alton Stoneware,
Madison County, Illinois
Articles and photography by Greg Mathis
Sample of Upper Alton vessels, Madison County, Ill. cc: 1836 - 1876
5 Gallon Storage Jar by John Wietfeld cc: 1850
THE Ulrich/Wietfeld Pottery, College Ave., Upper Alton, Illinois.
Antone Ulrich and half brother John Wietfeld immigrated from Westphalia, Prussia, to America in the early 1830's. They arrived at Upper Alton, Illinois, in 1833 and established a farm and pottery in 1836. John Wietfeld was a master potter. Little could he imagine his great significance to his hand craft in the young village of Salu within Upper Alton, Madison County, and the state of Illinois. Closing in 1876, this traditional family pottery spanned four decades. John Wietfeld exemplified and gave meaning to the adage "master" German potter. Ulrich and Wietfeld owned three tracks of land, with one containing a tributary of Coal Branch Creek near the west edge of Wood River Township where they developed a farm and a pottery located south side of College Ave., one third mile east of Seminary St. (near the historical toll gate). This property for the most part fell into the ownership of H.A. Hastings as indicated on the Madison County Atlas of 1890. In 1850 the pottery produced 3500 gallons of redware and stoneware. Listed in the 1850 census were Anthony Ulrich, John Wietfeld, Joseph Coleburg, Casper Gotten, Jacob Bachom, Henry D. Warnack, Sophia Hagerman, Richard Baker, and Henry Herman. In the 1860 census are listed Anton Ulrich, John Wietfeld, John Gahlert, John Vallh, Harz Becker, and Larry Burger. Moreover, some potters at Ulrich & Wietfeld moved onto to establish their own works as could be expected. Utilitarian salt glazed stoneware was predominantly manufactured bearing a capacity stamp within a dentated circle. Early Ulrich-Wietfeld specimens display an ovoid shape usually in the 2 gallon capacity, and are not two-toned. Other examples, likewise hand turned, bear more standardization ranging in size from 2 gallons to 6 gallons and are usually necked jars, or shelfed/jar churns, possessing everted rims. These often have about a two inch albany slip dipping from the top of the lip giving their salt glazed stoneware a distinctive appearance. This dipping served the practical purpose of better sealing the top of the item, thus preserving contents from the porous stoneware. Ulrich & Wietfeld advertised in the "Gazetteer of Madison County"(Hair 1866:XIX). Products of this pottery display great attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. The vessel above is a 5 gallon hand turned salt glaze storage jar with the distinctive Ulrich/Wietfeld "dentate" capacity stamp. cc: 1850. - This vessel is on permanent loan to the Alton Museum of History and Art, by direct descendant, great granddaughter of John Wietfeld, Jacqueline Brashear.
4 GALLON BUCK INN (NORTH ALTON) JAR