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Buck Family Pottery
Place Made:
Wythe County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
HOA: 7 3/4″; DIA: 4 1/8″
Accession Number:
Made in southwest Virginia, this high-necked, lead-glazed earthenware jar was turned on a pottery wheel and has two extruded loop handles. The robust handles are fairly wide and thick. The handle shape is often compared to the handles made on Moravian pottery, but until recently, there have been no connections between Moravian potters and the potters working in this region. There are two incised lines along the shoulder with a sine wave between the two lines. Three incised lines identify where the terminals of the handles were to be placed when it was being made. Wear on the rim suggests that either a lid accompanied the piece, or that it was used to store dry goods, pickled vegetables, or meat, and then covered with a cloth or animal hide.

The piece has a single layer of black lead glaze on the interior and the exterior. On the exterior, a second layer of glaze was applied from the rim to approximately two inches above the base. The base was then wiped off, but some of the glaze remains. The rim on this jar was damaged after it was made, but not repaired before it was glazed. An inclusion on the side of the jar is where another piece was placed too close to it during the firing, making the two vessels adhere to one another. The glaze also has an iridescence to it (as does accession number 3671, likely made in the same shop). This may relate to a particular mineral in the glaze, mica, which may not have burned off in the kiln firing, and could have left this lustrous surface.

It is an excellent example of what is referred to as “Great Road” pottery, following the valley from Southwest Virginia to Northeast Tennessee. Great Road jars are noted for the large extruded handles, robust ovoid bodies, and tight, sometimes high necks as seen on this particular jar.

MAKER: Johann Christian Buck (1769-1846) was born in Pennsylvania, but moved to North Carolina with his family as a child around 1780. Growing up on the Brush Fork of Abbot’s Creek in present-day Davidson County, he would have been exposed to the Germanic potting traditions established by the Moravians at Wachovia and the Albright/Loy family in Alamance County. In 1796, he moved to Wythe County, Virginia, married Christina Steffey, and established a family of potters that stretched throug the 19th century. Buck’s 1815 tax record noted that he owned and operated a potter’s kiln. Two of his sons, Abraham Buck (1798-1863) and John Christian Buck (1801-1879); his son-in-law Eli Cain (1815-1880; and three of his grandsons, Peter Buck (1826-1880), Felix Buck (1827-1889), and Ephraim Buck (1833-1909); were identified as potters in US census records.

Moore, J. Roderick. “Earthenware potters along the Great Road in Virginia and Tennessee.” The Magazine Antiques, September 1983.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund