Item/Auction Attributes

Attributed to the Lewis Miles Pottery, Edgefield District, South Carolina
Third quarter 19th century

Exceptional condition having only a very light 1 1/2" hairline off the rim and a few small glaze pops

15 1/4" h, 8 1/2" dia rim, 9" dia base

Property of a direct descendent of the original owner, Bragg Easterlin, Edgefield District, South Carolina


This previously undocumented and fresh to the market jar has never been out of the Easterlin family. According to family tradition, Bragg Easterlin was prominent in the banking industry and owned several slaves. He freed his slaves prior to the Civil War, much to the disapproval of his neighbors and associates.
The enslaved potter "Dave," maker of this jar, was born around 1800. Over time he was bought and sold by several Edgefield area families including Harry Drake. After emancipation in the 1860s, Dave took the surname Drake, perhaps in remembrance of the man who presumably taught him to be a potter. Their generous size and inscribed text make Dave’s wares the most important examples of Edgefield pottery, which primarily consisted of utilitarian vessels produced for agrarian plantation life. In addition to their extraordinary size, up to 40 gallons, Dave’s pots are unusual for their inscriptions. Around 1840 Dave began signing his work by boldly writing "Dave" on the shoulder of most vessels. It is theorized that Dave may have learned to read and write while working as a typesetter for one of his owners, Abner Landrum, who published a newspaper entitled The Edgefield Hive. Regardless of the source of his literacy, Dave is known to have signed and dated over 100 vessels, and on some he also wrote verse. At a time when the education of slaves was forbidden, it was truly remarkable that Dave would publicly demonstrate his ability to read and write. Considering that reading and writing were prohibited for African Americans in the South during this period, it seems shocking that Dave’s owner would endorse this blatant defiance of accepted antebellum behavior.
"Dave pots" are important components of many major museum and private collections throughout the United States. Together they represent the most important output of any 19th century African American craftsman