This jar is one of the most significant pieces of stoneware known from Stephen B. Sweeney’s production at his pottery site outside of New Market, Virginia, that he fondly called “Claymount.” On one side of the jar is an incised rooster or gamecock with an illustrious tail that is filled in with cobalt blue brushed slip, and on the opposite side is a tulip design with a long stem and opposing, graduated leaves at several intervals. The strong attribution as noted in the 2013 Ceramics in America article on James River Valley pottery by collectors and scholars Russ, Hunter, Mueller-Heubach, and Goodman, is based on the stamped five-gallon capacity mark, the dark gray clay, and a close resemblance to decorated sherds recovered from Sweeney’s earliest pottery site (Ceramics in America, 2013, 236). The jar was thrown on the pottery wheel and has strap handles against the sides of the jar below the rim, with cobalt blue slip at the handle terminals.
MAKER: In 1838 Stephen B. Sweeney (1799-1862) began amassing land outside of New Market, Virginia, today in the area of Route 5 and Bailey’s Creek in Southeast Henrico County. By the 1850s other potters associated with Sweeney’s large operation were his son, Stephen B. Sweeney, Jr., Edward J. Clark, and Walt (Watt) Green, a free black. The properties owned by Sweeney were sold off starting in 1862 after his death, with the largest lot selling to potter David Parr in 1863 (Ceramics in America, 2013, 231-233). Henrico County, even outside of Richmond, was home to a number of prominent potters by the mid-19th-century.