Few pieces of surviving of pottery can be associated with African American potters. This iconic stoneware jar in MESDA’s collection was made in Alexandria, Virginia by David Jarbour, one of several free black artisans working at the city’s Wilkes Street pottery. In 1820 Jarbour purchased his freedom from the Alexandria, Virginia merchant Zenas Kinsey for $300. Ten years later he created this immense jar marked on its base:
1830 / Alexa / Maid By / D. Jarbour
The following year John Swann (b. 1789), who had been overseeing the Wilkes Street Pottery, left. Perhaps Jarbour created this ambitious pot to show off his skills in a bid for the top job at the Wilkes Street Pottery. The exuberant cobalt decoration, while highly stylized, differs from the brushwork on other Alexandria stoneware.