Jar Potter: David Drake (probably 1801–ca. 1878)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

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.


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)

Credit Line

Purchased with a gift from friends in honor of Deanne Levison

Accession Number



19th century


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 records is ongoing.



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; sold to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2014
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 134–35, no. 58, ill
  • "Acquisitions 2014," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Online Supplement (accessed December 1, 2014), 5, ill
  • Walter C. Newman, "Americana Continues to Show Strength," Maine Antique Digest (September 2008), 39-C, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

jars, stoneware


"march / 4 · 1857 / Dave / LM / [two slashes}," incised, below the rim

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

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