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American Decorative Arts
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Potter: Dave Drake, probably 1801–ca. 1878
Subject: Lewis J. Miles Pottery, ca. 1850–1879



Stoneware with alkaline glaze

15 × 13 in. (38.1 × 33.02 cm)
Rim: 8 1/2 in. (21.59 cm)
Foot: 9 in. (22.86 cm)
Purchased with a gift from friends in honor of Deanne Levison
In the nineteenth century, the Edgefield District in South Carolina was a center for the production of alkaline-glazed stoneware, enabled by ample sources of raw materials and large-scale industrial slavery. Dave Drake is one of the few enslaved potters whose work can be identified, as he signed or inscribed many of his pots. His vessels are also unusually robust, indicating his strength and skill at the potter’s wheel. Drake was taught to read and write by Harvey Drake, the first person to keep him as an enslaved person, and he worked as a typesetter at a local newspaper before being sold to Lewis Miles, the owner of the Stony Bluff Manufactory. In 1834 the South Carolina General Assembly made it illegal to teach enslaved people to read or write. Drake’s inscriptions can be interpreted as demonstrations of personal pride in his craft as well as subversions of the state’s racist legislation.
Made in Stoney Bluff, Edgefield district, South Carolina
On view
19th century
Containers - Ceramics

By descent to Bragg Howell Esterlin (1889–1969), Cope and Norway, South Carolina; by descent to a Texas relative; consigned to Green Valley Auctions, Inc., Mt. Crawford, Virginia, June 27–28, 2008; sold to Wilson Beamer, Knoxville, Tennessee; sold to Robert M. Hicklin, Jr., The Renaissance Gallery, Charleston, South Carolina


Walter C. Newman, “Americana Continues to Show Strength,” Maine Antique Digest (September 2008): 39-C, ill.

“Acquisitions 2014,” http://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Pub_Bull_acquisitions_2014_02.pdf (accessed December 1, 2014).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.