Kentucky Derby Dishes – Mary Alice Hadley

Platter - Mary Alice Hadley

For hundreds of collectors, the Kentucky Derby means entertaining with treasured pieces of M.A. Hadley pottery.

The Hadley museum and pottery is a popular place especially during Derby week, as collectors arrive to fill out their patterns for Derby celebrations with friends and family. At one point, museum office manager Lynnette Faulkenberg said, limousines would form lines around the building while eager shoppers collected their pottery for Derby parties.

The durable, hand-painted plates, mugs, pitchers and julep cups are treasured by Louisvillians who’ve relocated and hold Derby Day celebrations all over the world. Collectors appreciate the craft and the simple, cheerful patterns offered by M.A. Hadley.

“It’s very collectible,” said Gene Hewitt who added that the pottery can be found in shops around the country.

Mary Alice Hadley was a painter in Louisville in the 1930’s but her true calling as an artist and designer for stoneware began in the late 30’s. According to Hadley Museum and Pottery general manager, Gene Hewitt, the business began when Mary Alice designed and fired a set of dinnerware for a party on the family’s boat. Her guests were charmed by the folk designs and glazes and asked for sets of their own.

“She started selling to friends in 1940 and the family bought her this building in 1944,” Hewitt said. Today the Hadley Museum continues to produce Hadley pottery and hires artists and art students to hand paint Mary Alice Hadley’s original designs.

If you have lost or broken a piece, it can be replaced. According to Faulkenberg, most of the older designs can be duplicated. The only M.A. Hadley pottery that the museum cannot reproduce is an award-winning brown fleck, because the clay to make it is no longer available.

A standard M.A. Hadley dinner plate sells for $25.50 but there are seconds to be had at the company’s headquarters. Older designs and those actually painted by Mary Alice Hadley herself are more valuable. In general, a collector can determine if a pattern is older by the clothing worn by the characters in the design. As far as determining whether or not Mrs. Hadley actually painted your piece, Hewitt says some of the retired artists can still tell her signature.

“We can usually determine if she signed it or not, but all of our artists still sign each piece with her initials and name,” Hewitt said. He added that while he did not know how much some of the older pieces were being sold for, that the value was increasing each year.

The Hadley “horse” pattern is particularly popular with collectors this time of year as the historic run for the roses brings Louisville, Kentucky and it’s local artisans into the public eye.

• You can find a list of specialty shops where you can purchase Mary Alice Hadley pottery here http://www.hadleypottery.com .

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  1. Mari Dickson says:

    I am seeking “seconds”… there used to be a source in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin where I could purchase Hadley pottery ware at a discount price. If these sources are still available, please direct me to the nearest one. I live on a farm; I do not collect this dinnerware as an investment; I use it for everyday enjoyment. I have no concern for for rejects due to color, mismatch or small chips.

    Thank you,
    Mari Dickson

    • Mary Brenneman says:

      I enjoy my Mary Alice Hadley pieces too-especially during the Derby!
      Linda did mention that seconds are available at at the company’s headquarters.
      I pulled this down for you from their website.
      The Hadley Pottery salesroom and factory are located in a building constructed in 1848. People from all over the U.S. and other countries visit to buy seconds and bargains in the salesroom and tour the pottery. The pottery is located at 1570 Story Avenue and is easily accessible from interstates I-64, I-65 and I-71. Store hours are M-F from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday hours are extended from the second week in November until Christmas.

      Hadley Pottery / 1570 Story Avenue / Louisville, Ky. 40206
      (502) 584-2171 / fax: (502) 589-0565

      Hope that is useful!

  2. ann k. says:

    I have a Kentucky Derby 1987 4″ dish signed M.A. Hadley plus one the says “A very Merry Christmas To You” and “A Very Happy New Year To You.’ Dpes anybody know if the Kentucky Derby 1987 one is sought by collectors and if so for how much? Thanks…Ann K.

  3. Inez Seibert says:

    If you like Mary Hadley pottery you will really like Debbie Dean’s Clay Rabbit Pottery at http://www.clayrabbit.com .

  4. kat levine says:

    I just bought a complete set of MA Hadley Bird and Flower design. Its very old and I am looking for other pieces to buy. Please contact me if you have any.
    Thank you
    Kat

    • aimee adams says:

      I have a set of M.A. Pottery I would like to sell. The original owner died of cancer and I have no use for it because I do not collect pottery and I would like it to go to someone that appreciates it.
      Several peices all “SHIP” collection. no chips
      also have the ped. cake stand side bowls, 2 lg serving dishes. will list all peices if interested. serving plate set of 8. I KNOW FOR A FACT the owner paid over $2500 for this collection and I am only looking for less than a third of that. email me if interested @ sahmn1994@gmail.com

    • Jo says:

      I also have a full set of M.A. Hadley dinnerware and accessories that are in perfect condition. I believe it is a set for 12. I will need to confirm that with my sister, who is storing all of it. They began as wedding gifts and then were added to by relatives as time went by. The set is available in the Chicago area. If interested, please email at jdc831@sbcglobal.net.

      Thanks

  5. Donna Paul says:

    Hi I picked up an ashtray with the horse painted on it at a yard sale and can’t find out any info on it. I went to the Hadley website and they didn’t have any thing like it. No ashtrays I mean. Any help with year and price would be appreciated – thanks