Water Cooler


Attributed to Thomas Chandler (American, 19th century), maker
Phoenix Factory, Edgefield district, SC, 1840–1846


ca. 1840


Alkaline-glazed, slip-decorated stoneware


31 1/4 x 58 5/8 inches


Purchase in honor of Audrey Shilt, President of the Members Guild, 1996–1997, with funds from the Decorative Arts Acquisition Endowment and Decorative Arts Acquisition Trust

Accession #


On View

On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 407

The British-trained potter Thomas Chandler is believed to have introduced the cooler form to Edgefield from New England. This vessel, which is the most striking piece of Edgefield ware known today, is thought to have been made for the wedding of a favored enslaved couple. Its decoration depicts a man and woman toasting each other. Below them are a hog and, presumably, a depiction of this cooler—both of which may have played a part in the wedding celebration. The simplified forms of the couple have a kinship with Bill Traylor’s drawing shown nearby. This kind of non-realistic but still figurative expression was part of what led artists, collectors, and curators to embrace both historical decorative arts, such as Chandler’s cooler, and works by living self-taught artists, like Traylor’s drawings, in the first half of the twentieth century.

Image Copyright

© Photo by Michael McKelvey.