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Dave the Slave Potter

"I saw a leppard, & a lions face,
then I felt the need of — Grace."
-Dave, November 3, 1858

Dave was born into slavery around 1801. He may have had up to five owners throughout his life, but it is known that following the death of plantation-owner Harry Drake in 1832, Dave became the property of Abner Landrum.

In 1810 Landrum developed the Pottersville area of Edgefield, which started out as a small pottery yard inhabited by around 15 slave families. Soon it grew into a successful commercial stoneware business, unique for their safe and water-proof alkaline glaze.

Today we know that the Old Edgefield Pottery style began in Pottersville would eventually become one of our country's most unique and sought after art forms. But most unique about Pottersville is Dave himself. His work is remarkable in their (usually extremely large) size and their markings. His signature, dates, and inscribed poetry are not just beautiful; they are rare for the time period, when most slaves were kept illiterate by their owners. He pieces are most often identified by a horse-shoe symbol, a slash mark, an X, LM (Lewis Miles, another factory owner), simply Dave, or poems.

During 1841-1858 there is no known work from Dave, and following the abolition of slavery he adopted the last name of Drake (after his first owner). He remained here in the Edgefield District until his death around the 1870s.  

More info. on Dave available from Leonard Todd author of Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave.

NY Times Article about Dave


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