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.

Current Exhibits

Wedgwood Medallion"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.

New Accessions

Jug Commemorating the Death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

Jug Commemorating the Death of Colonal Elmer Ellsworth
Made by Millington, Astbury, and Paulson, Trenton, New Jersey, 1861
Made of Porcelain
Partial Gift of Jay and Emma Lewis and Partial Purchase with Funds Provided by M. Groke Mickey

The death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed in the American Civil War, is graphically depicted on this jug.  

On May 24, 1861, Ellsworth and his men were part of the Union forces that occupied Alexandria, Virginia.  They entered the Marshal House Hotel to tear down a large Confederate flag that the hotel’s proprietor, James Jackson, had been flying for several weeks.  On his way downstairs, Ellsworth was shot and killed by Jackson, who was then shot and bayonetted by Corporal Francis Brownell.

Ellsworth was no ordinary Colonel.  He was a friend of Abraham Lincoln, and his body lay in state in the White House.  “Remember Ellsworth” became a rallying cry for Union troops, and a range of commemorative material such as this jug was made to celebrate Ellsworth.  

Jugs like this were as likely to be found on the bar of a tavern as in a home, but the inscription under the spout, “D. Richardson presented by his Daughter”, suggests that this particular jug was, in fact, destined to grace a domestic setting.