Pottery production is among the earliest of American artisan crafts. Everything needed for the production of pottery was present in Virginia-clay deposits, hardwood for firing kilns, and skilled craftsmen and entrepreneurs. In 1838, Henrico County native Stephen Booker Sweeney bought land on the north side of the James River in Henrico County, adding parcels over the next twenty years to assemble a property he whimsically named Claymount.Sweeney’s small commercial pottery included a building which served as a hotel, as well as several kilns for firing his distinctive salt-glazed stonewares. By 1855, he owned the tracts where the original Randolph, Amoss, and Frayser potteries had operated.
Stephen Sweeney’s Claymount was directly impacted by the American Civil War (1861-1865). His pottery a casualty of the conflict and closed in 1862. Following Sweeney’s death in 1863 his remaining stoneware inventory was auctioned.
This cobalt decorated salt-glazed storage jar is an excellent example of this firm’s output. It displays a bold cobalt design seen on other surviving Sweeney stoneware and “wasters” (discards) found on the site of his Bailey’s Creek property.
Below is an image of one of Sweeney’s Jars as well as a map of the surrounding area marking pottery sites.
Stephen Booker Sweeney (1799-1863)
Bailey’s Creek, Henrico County, Virginia
Gift of Mr. Clifford A. Cutchins, III, Katherine Cutchins Billingham and Keith Cutchins De Moss
Map of Sweeney Pottery Sites
David B. Voelkel
The Elise H. Wright Curator of the General Collection