Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates is pleased to announce The Steidel Collection, to be offered February 9-10. The collection features an important Alexandria, Virginia cobalt-decorated stoneware jar made around 1830 by free African-American potter David Jarbour. The present jar is one of the most highly developed examples of stoneware by an identified African-American potter recorded thus far. Its superb construction and grand decoration fully demonstrate David Jarbour’s ability as a master potter working on the same level as David Drake in Edgefield, South Carolina. Combined with its stellar provenance and publication history, the appearance of the present jar on the market offers a rare opportunity to acquire a significant example of American folk art by a noted African-American artisan.
David Jarbour was born enslaved in the late 1780s or early 1790s. He purchased his freedom for $300 in 1820 from Zenas Kinsey, a member of a well-known Quaker family that assisted many in Alexandria’s African-American community, enslaved and free. It is unknown exactly how Jarbour learned the pottery trade but a possible source was Lewis Plum (active 1797-1821), a potter who signed Jarbour’s manumission record. Plum was also the teacher of John Swann, who founded the pottery on Wilkes Street that would later be managed by Hugh Smith and B.C. Milburn. The year Jarbour became active in the pottery industry in Alexandria is undetermined; however, according to Barbara Magid in her article “’Stone-ware of excellent quality, Alexandria manufacture’ Part I: The Pottery of John Swann”, tax records first list him below Hugh Smith in 1826. Smith purchased the Wilkes Street Pottery from Swann in 1825. In her publication The Potters’ Art: Salt-Glazed Stoneware of Nineteenth-Century Alexandria, Suzita Cecil Myers, states that “two free black potters, David Tarbor [sic] and Michael Morris” are employed at the Wilkes Street Pottery until 1834 and that by 1841, Tarbor [sic] had returned. This research helps place Jarbour in time and place, but it wasn’t until 1977, when MESDA acquired a signed D. Jarbour jar that his talent as a potter was revealed. The decorative elements featured on the current piece and those found on the signed jar in the MESDA collection were assuredly decorated by the same hand. Angelika Kuettner, in her article “’…my friend David Jarboe…’: The Unfinished Portrait of an Alexandria Potter,” draws comparisons between the only known signed Jarbour piece housed in the MESDA collection and other attributed Wilkes Street pottery decorated vessels having a similar inscribed “D” to the base. According to Kuettner, these examples provide evidence that Jarbour was both a potter and decorator. Hopefully, future discoveries of additional initialed or signed stoneware vessels will help to further the understanding of David Jarbour and his influence on Alexandria pottery.
The current piece is double stamped “H. SMITH & Co.” Hugh Smith was a successful china merchant who immigrated to Alexandria in 1795. In 1825, Hugh made a notable career change and purchased the failing Wilkes Street Pottery from John Swann, who had established the business ten years earlier. Often partnering with relatives, Hugh Smith more than tripled the property assessment for the business on Wilkes Street within one year. Smith, never an artisan himself, hired a number of potters throughout his ownership, many of which were African Americans. David Jarbour, Thomas Valentine, and Michael Morris are presently the only three identified African-American potters working at Wilkes Street. The exuberant cobalt decorations applied to wares during Smith’s tenure at the pottery are the most decorative stoneware ever produced at the site, and perhaps the entire South. By 1841, Smith sold the Wilkes Street pottery to potter Benedict C. Milburn.
This exquisite jar was passed down through five generations of the Dulany-Morrison family residing at Old Welbourne, Bluemont, Loudoun County, VA and Welbourne, a large estate and plantation located in Middleburg, Loudoun County, VA. First acquired by John Peyton Dulany (1787-1878) circa 1830, the piece was then bestowed to his son, Richard Henry Dulany (1820-1906). Richard Henry founded the Piedmont Fox Hounds (1840), one of America’s oldest fox-hunting organizations, and the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, the oldest horse show in the U.S. Each remains active today. During the Civil War, Dulany served as a C.S.A. officer, first as a captain in the 6th Virginia Cavalry and then as a colonel in the 7th Virginia Cavalry. He lost the use of his left arm after being badly wounded at the Battle of Kernstown. The jar continued to be handed down through his descendants until 1977 when John Palmer, president of Middleburg Bank and a noted stoneware collector/dealer, discovered the piece at Welbourne.

Heather Cline – Ceramics Dept. Head – Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates