Now this is a living history project of the Edgefield County Historical Society in Edgefield, SC. Given the area is famed for their local clay, the pottery here, as history has it, was created in the 1920s by this Landrum guy who decided to learn new pottery techniques and make utilitarian products. So expect lots of storing vessels, water jars, etc. He was known to be well educated, very intelligent, had varied interests and introduced, with other family members, the first alkaline-glazed stoneware manufacturing. (Good thing I took notes and pictures on my trip or I would not remember that!)
Sturdy, cheap and not injurious to health in any way, the pottery soon found its following among the population there in the 19th century. The African American slaves were the ones working away in these pottery workshops though and among them was one famous Dave the Slave or rather David Drake. He wrote little verses on his work, very simple but meaningful for the times.
So the story behind Dave goes – he was born a slave in the 1800s and was owned by Landrum’s brother whose last name was Drake and slaves in those days took on their owners’ names (I learned on this trip). He also worked at a newspaper that Landrum ran, which then explains probably how he happened to be able to read and write, considering slaves those days couldn’t do that. When he was freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War, he went by David Drake. It is believed there are records of him until the 1870s but no record in the 1880 census so I guess we have no way of saying what his last years were like. His stoneware is supposed to be on display at the Smithsonian!
Apparently glass jars were invented some point after and that resulted in a decreased demand for this type of pottery. But the designs and style are so steeped in history that they are much sought after and highly valued today. I definitely admit the designs are unique and so are the colors and the patterns drawn on them. Now there is a gentleman, Justin, who works there and makes similar designs. They will do custom pieces for you too but with that unique clay and patterns it is sure to be one of a kind.
The pottery is surely impressive and quite frankly if I owned a home I’d want a piece on my mantle to be able to share this story with others. The face mugs/monkey jars are a sure conversation starter.
Old Edgefield Pottery is located on 230 Simkins Street, Edgefield, SC29824.