top of page

David Drake "Dave the Potter"

Celebrating Black History Month

David Drake "Dave the Potter"

Located at the Charleston, McKissick, South Carolina, and (recently) the Metropolitan museums, you will find exhibits showcasing large pairs of stoneware vessels, some big enough to hold over 40 gallons. Their mass and craftsmanship beg the question: Who created them, how were they coiled, lifted, carried to a kiln, and still survive over 200 years later?

David Drake, also known as Dave the Potter, among many other nicknames, was one of such artisans from the 19th century whose skill and craftsmanship is unparalleled. Drake was born into enslavement around 1801 in Edgefield, SC. Little is known of Drake's life. What is known can be taken from his large stoneware vessels.

Taking the surname of Harvey Drake after emancipation, Drake worked in the potteries of Landrumsville, an enterprise of both enslaved and freedman in Edgefield that produced and sold the alkaline glazed stoneware across much of the northeast. Located just a mile from downtown Edgefield, this pottery village was opened by Harvey Drake and his uncle, Abner Landrum. There, young Drake learned how to make stoneware vessels. He also learned another skill: reading and writing.

In the decades to come, Drake would make many pots indeed for utilitarian use, and on them, short, poetic inscriptions.Drake's first known poem was written on a jar produced at Landrumsville (now known as Potterville), it reads:

put every bit all between
surely this Jar will hold 14
July 12, 1834

These remarkable pots created by David Drake tell a story of southern history unique to Edgefield, and reminds us of the many enslaved craftsmen from Edgefield that we will never know.

And one last note—Preservation South Carolina is proud to be working with the town of Edgefield in the restoration of the last remaining structure of Pottersville and by doing so, ensure that the name David Drake is always remembered.

bottom of page