Signed Dave the Slave jug totes a $12,000 estimate

JEFFERSON, Ga. – Dozens of examples of highly collectible Southern pottery by such renowned artisans as Dave the Slave, Thomas Chandler, W.T.B. Gordy and others will be sold on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, by Cagle Auction Co., at the Jefferson Civic Center, located at 65 Kissam Street in Jefferson, Ga.

Dave the Slave jug  Two-gallon jug attributed to Dave the Slave and signed “LM” for his owner, Lewis Miles (est. $8,000-$12,000). Photo courtesy Cagle Auction Co.

Between 300 and 400 quality lots will cross the block in a range of categories, to include country store and advertising items, petroliana and rare and unusual collectibles. But the Southern pottery will command center stage. The auction will begin promptly at 1 p.m. (EST).

Dave the Slave was the name most commonly used for the enslaved African-American potter who was born circa 1801 and died in the mid-1870s. He lived in Edgefield, S.C., and produced stunning examples of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery that are in very high demand today. One of his pieces sold at an auction held by modern potter Billy Ray Hussey for $197,000.

Cagle Auction’s Memorial Day sale will feature three works attributed to Dave the Slave. One is a two-gallon jug signed “L.M.” (for Lewis Miles, the man who owned the pottery workshop where Dave worked and in fact owned Dave for a time) and authenticated by Steve Ferrell, an authority on Southern pottery pieces. The jug is estimated to sell for $8,000 to $12,000.

The second Dave piece is a two-gallon jar. It is unsigned, but has all the hallmarks – lug handles, characteristic glaze and form – that would suggest it’s a Dave the Slave piece. The jug has a presale estimate of $4,000 to $6,000.

Dave the Slave jar  Dave the Slave two-gallon jar, unsigned, with lug handles, characteristic glaze and form (est. $4,000-$6,000).


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The third piece, however, is a bit of a mystery. It is a red jar that some experts say is by Dave the Slave (an impressed, or scratched, horseshoe mark at the top, and a collared mouth all suggest Dave the Slave). But other experts claim it is an English jar made around 1630. English characteristics include an extruded handle and iron body. It is estimated to bring $2,000 to $5,000.

But who is correct? “It almost doesn’t matter,” Cagle remarked. “If it’s English, then it’s a survivor that made the trip over on a ship in the 1630s and was then copied by the earliest Edgefield potters. That makes it extremely historically significant. If it’s by Dave the Slave – well, that makes it automatically desirable. Scholars will debate this piece for years to come.”

One lot that could well end up being the surprise star of the auction is an unsigned two-gallon pitcher by Thomas Chandler in superb condition. Chandler was one of just a handful of highly skilled turners who worked at the Phoenix Pottery in the Edgefield District (S.C.). He was one of the area’s first potters and was known for his tall, ovoid jars and decorated stoneware.

The pitcher will attract keen interest for several reasons. First, it’s a pitcher, and Chandler made very few pitchers. Second, pitchers were typically fragile and didn’t survive well; to see one in this condition is remarkable. And, although unsigned, it does have Steve Ferrell’s authentication ($2,500-$5,000).

Chandler pitcher The surprise star of the auction could very well be this unsigned two-gallon pitcher by Thomas Chandler (est. $2,500-$5,000).

Also sold will be examples by W.T.B. Gordy, the Georgia potter and father of W.J. “Bill” Gordy, who enjoyed much success in his own right. Pieces by the elder Gordy to be sold include a rare, double-handled syrup jug, unsigned but showing the characteristics of Gordy ($800-$1,400) and a stacker jug in the more common single-handle form ($300-$475).

Internet bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com, and phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. All winning bids will be subject to a 10 percent buyer’s premium and a 7 percent Georgia sales tax (unless exempted). To learn more about Cagle Auction Co. and the Monday, May 28 Memorial Day Extravaganza, contact 404-849-7379 or email nathancagle[at]cagleauction.net.

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Brumbelow pottery jug  Rare Brumbelow (Jugtown, Ga.) jug-within-a-jug, with flower and snake decoration (est. $2,000-$4,000).
Chandler jar  Alkaline glaze 4-gallon jar, unsigned but with loop decorations consistent with Thomas Chandler (est. $3,000-$6,000).

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