Although I am an inveterate pottery collector and can hardly pass a piece of nice fired clay without trying to take it home, Haeger pottery is my favorite and I collect it. The collection at my house is not huge, it doesn’t overwhelm the place. I mostly keep useful pots for my plants. Over the years I’ve acquired some of the amazing sculptural pieces the pottery has produced.
The excellent quality of the pottery, its substantial weight and fine crafting, along with beautiful art deco lines instilled in utilitarian pieces, and the use of lovely glazes are the main reasons I collect Haeger. There is also a closer personal connection: my mother’s family name is Hager and they emigrated from Germany as did the founder of Haeger Pottery. The names are so close that I suspect there is some family connection deep in the German past.
The Haeger Pottery began in 1871 when David Haeger purchased the Dundee brickyard on the banks of the Fox River in Dundee, IL, near Chicago. The great fire had destroyed much of Chicago that year and Haeger produced millions of bricks to help rebuild the city. From bricks and tiles, the business expanded into flower pots. By 1912, artware was being produced. J. Martin Stangl joined Haeger in 1914, bringing strong artistic design to everyday pottery. In 1938, Royal Hickman came to work for Haeger. He was a design genius, introducing an art deco flair still popular today. He started the Royal Haeger line and designed the black panther and gazelle sculptures I own. The panthers began production in 1941 and are still made today.
Haeger is an old, all- American pottery, using US supplied sand and clay for production. The company is run by a woman who started as president of the pottery in 1979. Alexandra Haeger Estes is the great-granddaughter of David Haeger. Haeger Pottery has flourished where many famous American pottery companies flagged and failed over the years due to Asian competition. Their work is available for purchase today and should be acquired to help support this long-lived company.
My gazelles carry Haeger foil stickers, while the black panthers have lost their stickers. These are probably more modern pieces, likely produced in the 60s or 70s. The panthers are in perfect condition and measure 12.5″ long. The gazelles, 20.5″ tall, were damaged when I purchased them at auction. Both have some hairline cracks. One gazelle has a chip on the nose. This same figurine was knocked over by a cat and had one knee broken. I glued it back together, but the piece has little resale value due to the damage. That’s fine with me since I bought them for the decorative beauty and they were affordable. These art deco Royal Haeger pieces can get a tad pricey.
I appreciate the simple beauty of Haeger planters and never resist buying one when I find it. My favorite glaze is agate, a sort of drip effect on a solid base color. Unfortunately, I don’t own much agate glazed pottery…yet. A cat broke my best one. The cats are the biggest threat to my collection.
The maker’s mark on Haeger pieces varies. The oldest production had a diamond-shaped mark and none of my collection carries this identification. The pots are mold embossed or incised or else backstamped with ink. Some Haeger will not be marked, like my panthers, due to the loss of foil labels. Still, Haeger is fairly easy to identify by the design quality, the solid feel of the item and the glaze.
Every week I scout the second hand stores I visit for a new piece to join my collection.