TECHNIQUE: The alkaline glaze used on this vessel is made by combining wood ashes, clay, and water to form a cream-like solution. After being dipped in the solution and allowed to dry, the pottery was fired in a rectangular kiln, sometimes referred to as a “ground hog” kiln. During the firing, carbon monoxide and smoke circulate through the kiln, due to incomplete combustion of the fuel. Being very unstable, the carbon monoxide readily combines with any available oxides, which, in this case, are iron oxides present in the clay and glaze of the pottery. The effect of the carbon monoxide robbing (or reducing) these oxides is a green to blue-green to brown color. In this case only a small amount of reduction is present.
STYLE: This jug is especially unusual in that the inscription is done in cobalt blue slip. Although such slips are common on Northern stoneware, they are exceedingly rare on Edgefield pottery which normally has kaolin (white) or iron (brown) decoration. Also unusual is the phrase “Improved Stoneware,” suggesting that the ware was either an improvement over the products of “Drake and Rhodes” or that it was better than the previous firing of “Drake, Rhodes, & Co.”
MAKER: Abner Landrum who established both stoneware manufacturing in the area as well as alkaline glazing, left Edgefield in 1828 and deeded his pottery to his nephews, Reuben and Harvey Drake. Harvey Drake died in 1832 and shortly thereafter Reuben took a new partner, Collin Rhodes. In 1836 when Nathaniel Ramey joined the firm of Pottersville’s Drake & Rhodes they formed Drake, Rhodes & Co. In 1838 the pottery changed names to Ramey, Rhodes and Co. after Reuben Drake moved to Louisiana in 1837.
Baldwin, Cinda K. “Great and Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina.” Athens, GA: UGA Press, 1993.