Jug

David Drake (Dave the Potter), American, 1800/01 - 1870s
Possibly made at the John or Abner Landrum Potteries, Horse Creek Valley or Pottersville, Edgefield District, South Carolina

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about 1825-1840

Stoneware with a light, grayish-green alkaline glaze

Overall: 14 1/2 × 8 11/16 × 8 1/4 in. (36.8 × 22 × 21 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund

2016.57

Geography

Place Made: United States, North America

Period

19th century

Object Name

Pottery

Research Area

Decorative Arts

On view

Inscriptions

Signed (incised), on shoulder: Dave; impressed, near base: c [rotated on its end]

Label

This sturdy jug is unusual in that its maker, David Drake, was an enslaved potter who somehow learned to read and write when teaching slaves literary skills was illegal. One can discern his faint cursive signature, “Dave,” between this jug’s handles. “Dave the Potter,” as Drake was generally known, not only signed many of his pieces but also occasionally incised them with poems he authored. As Dartmouth Professor of English Michael A. Chaney has written: “In giving his works his name, Dave is doing more than simply recording his creations as his own or grandly taking possession of them; he is imparting them with the sign of his identity and rejoicing in their dissemination as vicarious experiences of freedom."

From the 2022 exhibition This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Barbara J. MacAdam, former Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art; Thomas H. Price, former Curatorial Assistant; Morgan E. Freeman, former DAMLI Native American Art Fellow; and Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art


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David Drake was an enslaved potter from Edgefield, South Carolina. Many of his pots are signed—like this one, just below the rim—and some even included lines of poetry. Drake’s literacy is remarkable because it was illegal for enslaved people to read or write. Literate enslaved people could read, write, and share abolitionist literature and, in some instances, forge freedom papers for themselves and others.

The small opening on this pot suggests it stored liquids and was stopped with a cork. Bought and sold, Drake’s pots would be refilled by other enslaved individuals. Those who could read his name or lines of poetry passed their shared knowledge through networks outside the domain of their enslavers.

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

ENGL 52.3, AAAS 82.5, COCO 3.1, Dave the Potter: Slavery Between Pots and Poems, Michael Chaney, Spring 2017

HIST 9.01, America: From Invasion to Independence, Paul Musselwhite, Fall 2019

ENGL 52.03/AAAS 82.05, Dave the Potter, Michael Chaney, Winter 2021

ENGL 62.22/AAAS 88.11, Atlantic Slavery to Atlantic Freedom, Alysia Garrison, Winter 2021

AAAS 88.19, Contemporary African-American Artists, Michael Chaney, Summer 2021

ANTH 7.05, Animals and Humans, Laura Ogden, Winter 2022

GEOG 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ARTH 5.01, Introduction to Contemporary Art, Mary Coffey and Chad Elias, Winter 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

SPAN 65.15, Wonderstruck: Archives and the Production of Knowledge in an Unequal World, Silvia Spitta and Barbara Goebel, Summer 2022

HIST 5.14, Americas: Invasion to Independence, Paul Musselwhite and Ernesto Mercadeo-Montero, Fall 2022

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Art History 40.01, American Art and Identity, Mary Coffey, Fall 2023

Creative Writing 10.02, Writing and Reading Fiction, Katherine Crouch, Fall 2023

Geography 11.01, Qualitative Methods, Emma Colven, Fall 2023

Geography 2.01, Introduction to Human Geography, Coleen Fox, Fall 2023

Geography 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.

This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 5–July 22, 2022.

Publication History

John R. Stomberg, The Hood Now: Art and Inquiry at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2019, p. 112, ill. plate no. 43.

Provenance

Private collection, dates unknown; Crocker Farm, Inc., Stoneware Auction, lot no. 441, Sparks, Maryland, October 22, 2016; sold to present collection, 2016.

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