KP Uhlig - sets by this firm and similarly designed sets
Feb 9, 2011Public
Photo: The aim is to consider Staunton-form chess-men of Uhlig and sets that are similar in design.  

Rather than duplicate images of either my sets or those of other collectors available on Picasa, here are some links to other sets that you may wish to refer to before continuing here.

My sets: bone - https://picasaweb.google.com/mtaxcons/EuropeanChessSets#5405471895666023346 et seq and plastic - https://picasaweb.google.com/mtaxcons/PlasticSets#5523015804148230322.

Other collectors' sets (in most cases, there is more than one image of Uhlig/Uhlig-style sets, so work through the range:

bone:https://picasaweb.google.com/chesspurr/StauntonSetsAndTypeOfIvoryBoneAndOtherMaterials#5396236710207405922 &  https://picasaweb.google.com/mickdeasey/BoneChessSets#5378096828036724978 (see also images 38-40)

plastic: https://picasaweb.google.com/chesspurr/PlasticSets#5406144925808574178 & https://picasaweb.google.com/victor.c.stefan/MyChessCollection#5503692848326985042
Photo: Screen shot relating to Uhlig taken from

http://www.borstendorf.de/tourismus/wanderwege/schachwanderweg/a_images/pdf/Infotafel%20S1%20Fuhrmann%20Schmied.pdf

Wholly in German, this indicates that the firm's founder - CE Uhlig - bought the land on which the factory was built in 1883, and that the firm was taken over by his son - KP Uhlig - on his death in 1911. It would seem likely that the firm was only renamed around this time (although the image of a firm's business card with the 'KP' name is dated 1910). It is shown as finally closing in 1991.

At the top of the 3rd column is a mention of the firm having gained international recognition - but with no specific date mentioned.

Please also see Mick's excellent Nov.2012 album on the Borstendorf chess makers - https://picasaweb.google.com/109071933456760886718/BorstendorfChessMakers - which also contains two pages of a German-only Uhlig catalogue which may be earlier than the one shown here.
Photo: KP Uhlig, shown as founded 1872, in Borstendorf municipality of the Erzegebirge region Germany, on its eastern border with the Czech republic, well known for craftwork including wood-carving.

Frontispiece of my catalogue. The firm styled itself as Draughts ("Dame") and Chess ("Schach") BOARD ("brett") makers ("fabrik"). Did it actually make the pieces?  I am not sure, but that is beyond this initial look. 

The catalogue is some 33 pages, most of which are devoted to chess/draughts boards of various descriptions/sizes. Only a few pages are devoted to chess pieces in their own right. 

Apart from the catalogue, and a 1954 advert re travel sets (see Travel Sets album) I have found no details regarding the firm's chess products . In this respect, they seem to closely mirror the English firm of F.H.Ayres as regards their chess activities - almost certainly relying on selling in quantity through middlemen/retailers with no overt attribution to the firm itself. Thus most of what is said here has to be speculation.
Photo: Uhlig Catalogue pp24-25

This image is of a page from a Uhlig catalogue (the dark-green coloured one that appears now and again). As stated elsewhere, due to the use of the Reichsmark symbol in it, it must date within 1924-48 when that currency was in use - most likely, I suspect, up to the start of WWII: so, say 1924-38. 

It can only be regarded as a snapshot of Uhlig products at the time, and, as it may have been primarily for export use (given the use of English & Spanish), may not even cover the entirety of their range. 

The range as shown  covers:

French Regence style sets

Staunton style sets 

Austrian "Coffee-house" style sets

Each style has its own size ranges as given. Only one type of plastic set is mentioned - galalith (see final line on the right-hand page 25) based on milk-rennet.

There are no photo's, sadly, in the catalogue - just line drawings, which experience (with other manufacturers) has shown are not always entirely in accordance with the actuality.
Photo: Uhlig catalogue page 26

This shows additional sets (a) horn, a smaller range of sizes (each 5mm smaller) clearly of the same design as the wooden/bone chessmen on pp24/25 and (b) ivory, for which no further details are given - it is possible that these mirror the horn sets.

Both pages show the Staunton-form sets with Kings bearing the distinctive and crisply delineated pickel-haube type cross and with the pieces in descending size, which can be, I think, therefore taken as typical of True Uhlig.

For a likely horn set by Uhlig see:  http://tinyurl.com/bmc7qp3   and subsequent images. It must be admitted that the Kings crosses on these sets are not as "distinct"  as one would expect from Uhlig (on their bone/plastic sets). Although this makes the crosses on these horn sets look more like those found on the Ugly-Uhlig sets discussed in the next section of this album, I think they still fulfil the Uhlig criterion overall .
Photo: One lucky collector now has an ivory set with 60mm Kings that apears to be an Uhlig: - see:
http://tinyurl.com/clfjgrs The brown stain has worn to a most attractive shade.

The superbly-carved knights to this set are shown in the image above.

The box the set came in is similar to that with one of my catalin Uhlig sets; this one has a label showing 'Ernst Lauprecht' with two addresses in Berlin.  I have also found a ref. that at some point they had a shop at 159 Breiterweg (Broadway) in Magdeburg, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt, being described as : 'Holzschnitzer, Bernstein- u. Elfenbeinschmuck' -  wood carvers, amber and ivory! So, did Lauprecht actually carve knights heads (and possibly the rest of the set?) or were they simply acting as retailer? I have also seen a C19th amber cigar holder in a leather case marked as by Lauprecht of Magdeburg.

Notable is the Kings cross on this set - although in the Uhlig style, the top spike is nowhere near as sharp as found on their bone and catalin sets.
Photo: Uhlig catalogue - p.21

One of the compendia sold by the firm.

This gives a slightly different view of some of the Staunton-form pieces sold - in particular the knights.
Photo: Seemingly a True Uhlig bone set, but with interestingly carved knights that differ from the norm.
Photo: Knight from the previous set. This seems to be a more 3D representation than the norm, with a much fuller mane.
Photo: Another seemingly True Uhlig set - but with more Germanic looking knights: a thin "silhouette" style, with an almost old-fashioned sea-horse look to them.
Photo: Another example of a True Uhlig set with what seem to be kights half-way between the more usual type and the sea-horse type.
Photo: Yet another True Uhlig style set with different knights,

Here, the knights are very close in design to those used on a travel set of mine:https://picasaweb.google.com/mtaxcons/TravelSets#5482697393730850914 that I have long felt to be by Uhlig, although nothing like it is shown in my Uhlig catalogue.

They are also fairly close in shape to those in my True Uhlig plastic set https://picasaweb.google.com/mtaxcons/PlasticSets#5523015906080227234 and the following bone set 
https://picasaweb.google.com/102034963874507604520/EuropeanChessSets#5405472082830534610
which has no other discernible Uhlig characteristics.

If made of bone, the material is of very good quality with no Haversian flecks showing - perhaps this is an example of their ivory sets? Sadly, I was unable to find out what it was made of.
Photo: A seemingly True Uhlig set. The bone (and I was told this is of bone) is of excellent quality, and the K's & Q's (and, indeed, all the pieces to an extent) are a little more stylised with a longer body stem than is usual.
Photo: A True Uhlig plastic set (not owned, more's the pity!). This exhibits all the usual qualities of TU's and is generally faithfull to the bone sets - the main difference is that the knights are of very good quality and different in shape.

There appears to be an ivory type of cross-hatching to some of the pieces, but I have been assured that this is of plastic!

Note that the knight's head, at least, is secured to the base with a metal (brass?) screw as is common with many catalin sets. It is a different method to that adopted with my set (believed to be catalin) CH277 https://picasaweb.google.com/mtaxcons/PlasticSets#5523015906080227234 where integral pegs are used.
Photo: A seemingly True Uhlig plastic set (possibly of catalin - it is difficult to tell). The TU cross is evident on the king - more clearly so (although the image - not mine - is indistinct) on a subsequent photo.
Photo: Th excellent knights to the previous set - beautifully executed. I narrowly missed out on this set, but the price was getting high, and it was in the US - so freight & import taxes made it impractical to continue: a pity!

A similar style of - unusual - clasp also appears on a cruder box in Mick's collection:  https://picasaweb.google.com/mickdeasey/BoneChessSets#5378100935480597810
Photo: The best I can do with this image of the pieces from the set - the TU king's cross is a little more evident here.
Photo: A similar looking True Uhlig-type plastic set, with box-lid labeled as Abercrombie & Fitch. 

K = 3.5in

Not owned: ex eBay US July 2011 - considerable damage to this set, especially to the black pieces.

Note the 'felts' to the bases - not something I've seen before on catalin-type sets.
Photo: The White pieces to the set
Photo: Black pieces to the set - most of the damage was to the black side

A different shade to the plastic around the bases can be seen to the rook, especially.
Photo: This image is a repeat of one already on this site (see Plastics album) - however, it is an interesting view of two sets in different material.

CH277 - comparison with a earlier polished bone Uhlig set of the same size  (CH66, which can be dated to 1900, per the handwritten inscription on the base of the box - see photo     http://picasaweb.google.com/102034963874507604520/EuropeanChessSets#5523375575753234450

It would be interesting to find a known contemporaneous bone set to make a further comparison. Whilst one can see a clear family resemblance in the design of these two sets, the plastic set is much more delicate in it's dimensions and look (the spike - reminiscent of the German Pickelhaube spiked helmets -  on the kings cross is much taller and makes up for the otherwise slightly shorter height of the plastic piece).
Photo: Could this be a True Uhlig set?

Certainly of an early and good quality plastic, and possibly of galalith, it looks quite close in design to the True Uhlig Austrian Coffee-house style sets in the catalogue (p.25).

The knop at the top of the bishops is not of "reverse" colour as is frequently the case with Coffee-house sets and as shown in the Uhlig catalogue p.25, but this probably means little here.
I've just (Aug.2011) acquired a quite similar-looking set -https://picasaweb.google.com/102034963874507604520/NewToPicasa#5645539640823013202 - that is made of galalith. The Bishops tops unscrew and, most likely, should be fitted in 'reverse colour' - there seems little other reason for them to have been made separately.
Photo: Could this be a True Uhlig set?

The "black" pieces - and very nice-looking they are!

For an example of a wooden possible-Uhlig Coffee House set in Guy's collection, see here: https://picasaweb.google.com/chesspurr/NonStauntonSetsWood#5404398287898777410
Photo: An Uhlig part-set of chessmen seen on eBay Germany, Feb.2012. The material used looks to be galalith.

Of particular interest is the written inscription on the box - apparently dating it to 1924/5. If correct, and contemporaneous with the pieces, it could provide a good basis for dating some of the Uhlig bone sets - the knights here are very similar to those found on some of that firm's bone sets.

The date would easily fit in with the general date-range for Uhlig sets, and the pre-eminence of the use of galalith on the continent in particular - although Uhlig continued to use the material for chessmen afterwards, as evidenced by the Uhlig catalogue which I and many other collectors hold (which itself can be dated to somewhere between 1924-48).
 
However, I have my doubts as to whether the box is 'original' to the chessmen. In form, it is quite typical of boxes used with fairly cheap German wooden sets throughout a long period - see one in the image at top right.   [ctd in 'comments' below]