This massive storage jar was made by Dave Drake, one of the many slaves who worked on the pottery plantations of Edgefield County, South Carolina. Dave was first owned by Abner Landrum (1780-1859) who has been credited with establishing the first pottery in the Edgefield District during the 1810s. Later he was owned by the pottery proprietor Lewis Miles (ca. 1809-1868). One side of the jar is inscribed “L.m. nover 3, 1858/ Dave.” The other is marked “I saw a leopard & a lions face/ then I felt the need – of grace,” an adaptation from the Book of Revelation.
Of the nearly 3000 enslaved craftsmen who have been identified by MESDA, Dave is the only one whose work we can positively identify. Despite laws prohibiting literacy among slaves, Dave was taught to read and write. His pots – more than 150 signed examples are known – testify to both his literacy and his skill as an artist. As a freed man he adopted the more formal appellation “David” and the last name “Drake” after one of his earliest owners.