Very Rare and Important Alexandria, VA Stoneware Jar
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Lot 0129 Details
Extremely Rare and Important Half-Gallon Stoneware Jar with Cobalt Floral Decoration, Stamped "HUGH SMITH & CO." at Shoulder and "T" on Underside, attributed to Thomas Valentine at Hugh Smith's Wilkes Street Pottery, Alexandria, VA origin, circa 1822-1825, ovoid jar with footed base, tooled shoulder, and semi-rounded rim, featuring a brushed floral motif with circular blossom encompassing the maker's mark and sprigs extending to the left and right. Impressed at shoulder with rare "HUGH SMITH & CO." maker's mark, surrounded by a rectangular border of impressed leaf-like designs. Underside impressed with a large serifed letter T. The T stamp implies the jar was made by enslaved African-American potter, Thomas Valentine, while working at Alexandria's Wilkes Street Pottery, during merchant Hugh Smith's ownership of the manufactory. Other Smith-period pieces bearing the incised initial, "D", for African-American potter, David Jarbour, and "M" or "BCM", for Benedict C. Milburn, indicate Alexandria potters signed their ware in this manner. According to Eddie L. Wilder's Alexandria, Virginia Pottery, 1792-1876, no other Wilkes Street potters had names that began with the letter T, corroborating the idea that pieces bearing a T stamp were indeed made by Valentine. Valentine was owned by Alexandria potter, John Swann, for several years and was eventually sold by him to merchant and Wilkes Street Pottery owner, Hugh Smith. Valentine was freed by Smith in 1829, as stated by a manumission document dated Nov. 12, 1829 (Wilder, p. 366). In 1831, Thomas Valentine--along with fellow African-American potter David Jarbour--was the signatory on a petition to the Mayor of Alexandria, decrying Nat Turner's recent slave rebellion and essentially pledging allegiance to the town. The Smith family maker's mark on this jar, used circa 1822-1825, indicate it was made while Valentine was still an enslaved laborer. Adding to the jar's appeal is its small size and early, short-lived Smith mark, which is among the rarest Alexandria maker's stamps known. Excellent, essentially as-made condition. H 7 3/4".