Archives: 2023

Editor's Welcome
Research Note: Nineteenth-Century Stoneware Makers of Madison County, Kentucky

Bob Noe

Kentucky’s Madison County was a vibrant center for salt-glazed stoneware production for fifty years driven by the work of more than a dozen identified potters. From the 1840s through the close of the century—before the rise in popularity of the region’s Bybee/Waco art pottery—Madison County’s multi-generational potteries, numerous partnerships, and sporadic liquidations and acquisitions created a dynamic but relatively untold chapter in Kentucky’s ceramics history. Stories abound about the roots of Madison County’s pottery tradition, but documentation supporting them has been scarce.[1] Regardless, the county’s white and gray clay deposits were a significant natural resource that provided an ample livelihood for stoneware potters. Today, the salt-glazed stoneware made in Madison County is well regarded and highly sought after by collectors and museums. The pottery is distinctive in that it is notably plain in decoration when compared to other Kentucky stoneware made in the first half of the nineteenth century. Potters … Continued

Musings on a Scottish-Irish Desk Form in Colonial Virginia: The Scrutoire

Sumpter Priddy

Rarely in the course of studying American cultural history do historians encounter an unfamiliar furniture form, especially one of great scale or stature. When such incidences occur, they are ripe with potential to significantly expand an understanding of the material world inhabited by our ancestors. Over the last decade, the discovery of several ambitiously designed desks from Tidewater Virginia presents a valuable opportunity to explore the origins and usage of a distinct form of desk—one that may strengthen our insights into the impact of Irish and Scottish culture in the coastal South during the colonial period. Only one of these desks has previously been published—a painted pine example made about 1750 by Scottish emigre cabinetmaker Robert Walker of King George County, Virginia and now in the collection of George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Fig. 1). This is the earliest of the form currently recognized from colonial Virginia.[1] A 1750-60 Norfolk, Virginia, … Continued

Slave Cloth and Clothing Slaves: Craftsmanship, Commerce, and Industry

Madelyn Shaw

“I have a vivid recollection of the linsey-woolsey dress given me every winter by Mrs. Flint. How I hated it! It was one of the badges of slavery.” — Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) recalling her years as a slave in North Carolina[1] In 1860 the federal census counted nearly four million enslaved men, women, and children across the American South, most of them born in the United States, and the majority working in the cotton fields of the lower South. Clothing that enormous population was an industry in itself—indeed, several industries—connecting many segments of the American economy with the institution of slavery. In the absence of an authoritative, period account describing these industries, our understanding of the complex processes and systems required to clothe enslaved individuals in the early South must be gleaned from surviving letters, memoirs, extant objects, and other documentation. Enslaved workers usually received most, if not all, of … Continued

A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina: The Discovery of a 1737 North Carolina Manuscript Map

Mike McNamara

A previously undocumented, well-worn, and faded, but intriguingly attractive manuscript map sold at Swann Auction Galleries in New York in 2006 (Fig. 1). “A New and Correct MAP of the Province of North Carolina drawn from the Original of Col. Mosely’s [sic] Survey by J. Cowley, London 1737” had no history or provenance associated with it at the time of the sale (Fig. 2).[1] Drawn with pen and ink on laid paper, the manuscript map was hand-colored, mounted on linen, and measured approximately 28” by 22.5”. Adhered to the back of the map was a label with the notation, “2S / Map of North Carolina pCol Mosley [sic].” (Fig. 3). The paper was embossed with one of the same watermarks as paper used by Mark Catesby for his highly regarded Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands issued between 1733 and 1745.[2] The map appeared to have been … Continued

Scratching the Surface: Thomas You, Charleston Silversmith, Engraver, and Patriot

Gary Albert

Some twelve years before the Declaration of Independence, British Parliament enacted legislation that sparked revolution in America. The Stamp Act of 1765 is recognized as the catalyst that first unified the American colonies as a collective body to protest British rule. More difficult to discern is how individual Americans reacted to the Stamp Act through their business practices and products. Charleston silversmith and engraver Thomas You is a notable exception. The effects of British policies on You’s business in the mid 1760s drew him into a circle of like-minded artisans that influenced his shop practices and products. Evaluation of two previously unattributed eighteenth-century images of Charleston’s St. Philip’s Church (Figs. 1 and 2) and Thomas You’s surviving work, newspaper advertisements, and personal and business associations coalesce to establish him as one of the city’s Sons of Liberty, a collection of craftsmen that was the crucible for revolution in the Carolina Lowcountry. … Continued

2012 Editor’s Welcome

Adapted from "Benjamin Franklin Yoe and Son" attributed to Joshua Johnson; Baltimore, MD, 1809-1810. Acc. 2170.1.

The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) is delighted to welcome you to its new online scholarly journal. The Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts was established in 1975, and over the years has published seminal articles in the field, providing an outlet for established and emerging scholars to present their work. Along the way the journal has garnered numerous awards and been cited in countless catalogs, books, exhibitions, lectures, and articles. In the first issue of MESDA’s Journal, the museum’s co-founder Frank Horton wrote: As museums go, MESDA is but an infant, both in size and in age. Its opening in January, 1965, was filled with the hope that a museum displaying the decorative arts of the early South would fill a void in the knowledge of art historians and antiquarians concerning this part of our southern cultural history. To some extent, the museum has indeed achieved this. We quickly … Continued

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