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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

John M. Wilson
American, 1857 - 1869
One-Gallon Crock
c. 1860, Seguin, Guadalupe County, Texas
Salt-glazed stoneware with brown slip interior

Overall: 10 1/2 x 7 1/2 (diameter) inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of William J. Hill

Arts of North America

Most often, enslaved black men and women are imagined as working in plantation fields. Yet many enslaved people were skilled craftsmen trained by their owners or local artisans. The work was a vital part of the pre-Civil War South’s economy, as shown by the success of Guadalupe Pottery where this piece was made.

White slave owner John M. Wilson Jr., originally from North Carolina, established the Guadalupe Pottery Company in Guadalupe County, Texas, in 1857. The Southern-style kiln and ash glaze used on many Wilson pieces reflect pottery practices in Edgefield, South Carolina, where the potter who trained Wilson’s slaves probably learned his craft.

Wilson’s slaves seem to have worked mostly as field hands, developing their pottery skills when the plantation work allowed. Even though they did not work full-time as craftsmen, their ability to produce excellent pottery led to high demand. After slavery ended Wilson’s most talented potters left to establish their own company, H. Wilson & Co. Pottery. This company was the first known African American-owned business in Texas. Bayou Bend holds many pieces from this company run by newly freed slaves in Texas, also on view in this online collection.

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