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Drake, David
Place Made:
Edgefield County South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
November 3, 1858
Alkaline-glazed stoneware
HOA 24 1/4″; WOA 22″; DIA (top): 17 9/16″
Accession Number:
Thick walled, large capacity alkaline-glazed storage jar (approximately 30 gallons) with ovoid body, rolled lip, and lug handles. Inscribed on each side beneath lip.

This massive storage jar was made by Dave Drake (1800-1870), 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 (1808-1868). One side of the jar is inscribed “L.m. nover 3, 1858/ Dave,” identifying Lewis Miles and the jar’s date of manufacture. The other side is marked “I saw a leppard & 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.

Baldwin, Cinda K. “Great and Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina.” Athens, GA: UGA Press, 1993.

According to Betty Price Claffy (1923-2012), this jar descended in the family of her great-grandfather, John Henry Kohler (1835-1884) of Wateree, Richland County, South Carolina. Born in Germany, Kohler came to South Carolina before 1860, married Sophia Harbert (1842-1909), and was listed in the 1870 Richland County census as a butcher. Mrs. Claffy recalled there had once been 5 or 6 large jars at the Kohler farmstead in Wateree, but many of them had been broken or stolen and only “the jar with the writing” survived. As a commerical butcher, Kohler probalby used the jars for meat storage, a typical 19th-century use that is referenced in many of David Drake’s poems.
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund