The Reeves Collection
Founded in 1967 with a gift of ceramics from alumnus Euchlin Reeves and his wife, the painter Louise Herreshoff, the Reeves Collection contains ceramics made in Asia, Europe, and the Americas between 1500 and today.
These fragile yet durable objects tell stories of design, technology, and trade, and illustrate how people drank, dined and decorated their homes over the past five centuries.
Search and view items from the Reeves Collection by visiting our online database. Records may at times be added or removed for editing.
"Breaking the Chains: Ceramics and the Abolition Movement"
The new exhibit “Breaking the Chains: Ceramics and the Abolition Movement,” sponsored by the Reeves Collection, is now open at the Watson Pavilion at Washington and Lee University. This exhibition features several pieces of anti-slavery ceramics used to support the cause of abolition throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These pieces are taken from the Reeves Collection as well as loaned from institutions such as Colonial Williamsburg and Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. “Breaking the Chains” will remain on display through December 31, 2019. For more information, access "Breaking the Chains" online.
Made by David Drake, Edgefield District, South Carolina, October 31, 1849
Made of Alkaline-Glazed Stoneware
Museum Purchase with Funds Provided by the Herndon Foundation, the Family of Elisabeth S. Gottwald, and John Goadby Hamilton '32
This jar was made by David Drake, an enslaved African-American potter who worked in South Carolina in the mid-1800s.
Drake, who called himself Dave, is famous in part because of the pots he made, which are large, skillfully thrown jars and jugs covered in a rich greenish-brown alkaline glaze. But his fame rests primarily on the fact that he inscribed many of his pieces with his name, the date he made the vessel and, in some rare instances, short poems that reflected on his life and the world.
It was not only rare for enslaved African-Americans to read and write in South Carolina, it was also illegal. Thus, Dave's very bold proclamation of his literacy was an act of independence and resistance. He may have learned how to read and write from one of his owners, Abner Landrum, a potter and newspaper editor, and he may have worked as a typesetter at Landrum's paper.