COLLECTION: Ceramics

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5 Gallon Storage Jar

1835-1838
Origin: America, Georgia, Washington County
OH: 15 in.; Diameter: 11 in.
Ash-glazed stoneware
Museum Purchase, The Friends of the Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund
Acc. No. 2018-228
Ash-glazed ovoid shaped storage jar with everted rim and lug handles high on the shoulder, directly beneath the rim. Incised onto the side of the vessel near the shoulder are the conjoined initials"LJ" for Lucius Jordan and 5 slash marks next to one of the handles to indicate that it is a 5-gallon jar. In addition, there is a hand print on the rim that was left by the potter when he was dipping it into the wet glaze.
Label:Lucius Jordan (1816-1880) was born in Georgia and evidence, including an 1836 tax list from Washington County, Georgia, implies that Jordan was a free person of color and perhaps of mixed race. It is not until the 1860 census that Jordan is listed as a “Jug Maker” for his profession. His brother Elbert Jordan (b. 1818) was also listed as a “Jug Maker” in the 1860 census. The Jordans likely trained as potters under Abraham Massey (b. 1785) and/or Cyrus Cogburn (1782-1855), two of Washington County, Georgia’s prominent early potters. Both Cogburn and Massey worked as potters in Edgefield, South Carolina, at various shops including with Abner Landrum, one of the eminent shop owners in early Edgefield. Often Jordan’s shapes are ovoid and all are alkaline-glazed. He is the only Washington County potter to mark his work, incising in script his initials, “LJ” or simply “J.”


Approximately 100 miles from the Edgefield District of South Carolina was another group of stoneware potters working in Washington County, Georgia. The first potters known to have worked in this region were trained in Edgefield and there are similarities between the pots made in the two areas. Lucius Jordan, the potter who signed his initials on this vessel was a free person of color who worked first in Washington County and then moved shortly after this piece was produced to neighboring Hancock County. Around 1860, approximately twenty-two years later he returns to Washington and is listed in documents as white. Jordan’s story appears to speak to the complexities of race in the antebellum South.

Mark(s):Conjoined initials "LJ" incised