All jug, no whiskey: Century-old whiskey jug found in Town Park
By Kathryn Purcell
Going about the business of constructing the City of Madison's new Town Park, workers on the site never quite expected the noteworthiness of the rare find they were about to unearth.
"When they were digging trenches for the Town Park, it came up whole," Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan said. "Pottery never comes up whole."
The more than 100-year-old, and perfectly intact, whiskey jug was discovered by Utilities Department member Wade Anderson.
The jug, about 12 inches tall, is made of red clay with a brown slip glaze. According to Ted Martin of Saffold House Antiques, who saw the artifact right out of the ground before it was cleaned up, the jug could be classified as "salt-glazed stoneware." This type of stoneware is created when potters throw salt into a hole in the kiln. The salt then crystallizes on the glaze of the item in the kiln.
Made to be of a utilitarian nature, this is considered a "stacker jug," as its shape facilitated transportation, according to Martin.
Dating back to the 1880s or 1890s, according to Martin, the jug is stamped on its shoulder with the name "U.A. BROWN," and the 'N' on the end of "BROWN" is backwards.
The name on the jug belongs to one Ulysses Adolphus Brown, also known as "Dolphus" or "Dop," a member of a dynasty of Georgia potters that also worked in Pike and Upson counties in an area called "Jugtown" known for its potting.
Brown is, in fact, listed in the 1880 census as being a potter. He took over his grandfather's shop in the Howell's Mill area of Atlanta, according to "Brothers in Clay: The Story of Georgia Folk Pottery," where it's likely this jug was made.
"This is where the clay was, and potters stuck together," Martin said.
Eventually, Brown was also part of the pottery tradition in White County. Currently, Brown's family is in its eighth generation of potters, and has spread its roots into the areas of Asheville and Arden, in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and into Alabama.
When it comes to Madison and the Town Park, however, the jug was recovered from the vicinity of where the Hardy House, a hotel or boarding house, once stood.
Callahan guessed that the jug probably fell into a ditch or well that was later filled in, burying the jug in pristine condition.
Callahan is hoping to work with the Madison Artists Guild to create a display of local art and artifacts to eventually be located in the Town Park cottage the Guild will occupy.
"I could see this jug, artifacts, other local artwork on display," Callahan said.
For now, however, the whiskey jug, cleaned, polished and valued by Martin to be worth between $175 and $225, rests in Madison's City Hall.