Rare face vessel from Edgefield on display in the South Carolina State Museum. Photo by Paxton Rountree

A rare piece of pottery is now on display at the South Carolina State Museum. 

The museum acquired a historic Edgefield face vessel that dates back to around 1860. This face vessel, or “face jug,” is one of around 150 face jugs known to exist. 

This kind of pottery is specific to South Carolina and made by an unidentified slave working in Horse Creek Valley, near Edgefield, S.C. That’s where master potter Dave Drake created his inscribed vessels, but the museum isn’t attributing the vessel to “Dave,” more commonly known as “Dave the Potter.”

Edgefield is the first place where alkaline-glazed stoneware techniques were used in the United States, said David Dickson, public relations manager at the museum. This technique was developed around the mid-19th century by combining different kinds of pottery-making from other parts of the world. 

There is debate over what the face vessels were used for, Dickson said.  

“Was it made to possibly hold poison or various chemicals inside it, or was it rather used as something fun?” Dickson said. 

While historic, this rare piece of pottery is surprisingly small. 

“The No. 1 thing when people notice this face jug is, it’s very small,” Dickson said. “People expect it to be this huge thing, but it’s actually pretty small, which is cool.” 

The face’s protruding tongue is a unique feature of this jug and not commonly seen, Dickson said. 

“The biggest thing for us is just having a face jug, a face vessel, from Edgefield, from this time period, in our collection,” Dickson said. “I think it was just an added bonus that it had a protruding tongue.” 

The museum has multiple pieces of pottery that date to the 1800s. But this is the first face vessel they have from Edgefield.  

“Many are already in museums or private collections,” said Director of Collections Paul Matheny. “When they become available, they are highly sought after.” 

Dickson said the museum has been trying to obtain one of these pieces since the 1970s, before they even had a building to put it in. 

Right now, the face jug is on display in the museum’s recent acquisitions gallery. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Public Relations Manager David Dickson standing next to Edgefield pottery on display at the South Carolina State Museum. Photo by Paxton Rountree

Edgefield face vessel sitting amongst other Edgefield pottery on display in South Carolina State Museum. Photo by Paxton Rountree

Front of the South Carolina State Museum. Photo by Paxton Rountree