Benjamin Duval (1765-1826)
Benjamin DuVal, a Richmond pharmacist and entrepreneur, began manufacturing clay roofing tiles as early as 1808 on property north of downtown. By 1811 he expanded his operation to include salt-glazed stoneware. Newspaper advertisements detailed the range and variety of his products – a list of forms that rivaled those of the best New York potteries. Duval himself was not a potter. He hired a skilled workforce that included John P. Schermerhorn and Samuel Wilson, both trained in the New York stoneware tradition. Thus, the shapes of DuVal pots are similar to those produced in the New York area. DuVal’s pottery appears to have ceased operation around 1820. Tragically, the site of Benjamin DuVal’s pottery was destroyed by commercial development in 2002.
This surviving fragment of Benjamin DuVal’s kiln reveals its construction. Flues below ran from a firebox to holes in the kiln floor where heat and flames circulated among the stacked pots. The floor is studded with the remains of vessels and kiln furniture embedded in melted sand. Sand was used to prevent pots and kiln furniture from fusing together; as you can see, these measures sometimes failed. More than a decade of use by the Duval Pottery built up layer after layer of sand, kiln furniture, and broken pots.