SFO Museum’s Stoneware Stories exhibition features Edgefield, SC potters

Storage jar made in 1862 by David Drake, aka Dave, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

Storage jar made in 1862 by David Drake, aka Dave, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

SAN FRANCISCO — Stoneware Stories: Folk Pottery of Edgefield, South Carolina is now open at SFO Museum. The free exhibition will remain on display in the pre-security area in the International Terminal, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport until January 23, 2022.

The Deep South has a unique place in the history of American ceramics where potters often applied alkaline glazes on high-fired stoneware. The technique first appeared during the Han Dynasty, China (206 BCE–220 CE) and was pioneered in the United States by South Carolina physician and newspaper editor Dr. Abner Landrum, who most likely studied published accounts of Chinese alkaline glaze formulas. Landrum established the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory around 1815 in the Edgefield District.

Circa-1850 storage jar by Thomas Chandler, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

Circa-1850 storage jar by Thomas Chandler, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

By 1850, numerous entrepreneurs and investors had opened factories to fulfill the demand for stoneware required for food storage and preservation in the agriculturally rich region. While Abner Landrum established the use of alkaline glazes in the south, master potter Thomas Chandler elevated the aesthetics of Edgefield pottery. After moving to the area in the late 1830s, Chandler introduced distinctive celadon-colored glazes and slip decorating, in which liquid clay is brushed or trailed onto the vessel’s surface before firing.

Another legendary figure in Edgefield, the enslaved potter known as Dave, who took the surname Drake following emancipation, first worked at Pottersville. Remarkably, during an era of extreme oppression, Dave signed and dated many of his pots, leaving an extraordinary record of his prodigious artistic talent.

This exhibition was made possible through a generous loan from Kenneth Fechtner. The museum offers a special thank you to Dr. John A. Burrison for lending his scholarly expertise to the exhibition.

Visit sfomuseum.org/exhibitions/stoneware-stories for more information.

Face jug created circa 1862 by an unidentified enslaved African American potter, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

Face jug created circa 1862 by an unknown enslaved African American potter, from the collection of Kenneth Fechtner. Courtesy of SFO Museum

About SFO Museum
Established in 1980 by the Airport Commission, the SFO Museum’s mission is to delight, engage, and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport. The Museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1999 and retains the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features 25 galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, which houses a permanent collection of more than 140,000 objects related to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit www.sfomuseum.org. Follow us on www.facebook.com/sfomuseum, www.twitter.com/sfomuseum, or www.instagram.com/sfomuseum.