Crowell was unquestionably the most renowned and among the best decoy and
decorative bird carvers of the late 19th and early 20th century. While simple carved and
painted decoys were successful, there were a few carvers that took their carving and
painting very seriously; Crowell was indeed one of them. He had an extraordinary eye
for sculpted detail and excelled at incredible painted detail. Later in the 20th century
market hunting became illegal, thus the demand for decoys dropped off and carvers
such as Crowell diversified to make a living. Crowell began to make decorative bird
carvings such as this one; life size, half size and quarter size as well as miniature.
Customers acquired carvings directly from Crowell; he also made carvings that were
marketed through sporting houses, particularly his miniature and small carvings which
were frequently sold by the famous sporting firm of Abercrombie & Fitch. This carving of
a tern, which is approximately one half the actual size of the specie. The underside is
both branded by Crowell with his maker’s mark and in his hand is an ink signature “A.E.
Crowell, Cape Cod”. He has also penned the name of the species on the bottom “Least
Tern”. This carving is excellent in all respects…a truly outstanding example by the
master carver. (Height: 3.75"; length: 7.75"; width: 3")
Additional Information: Fine, about mint
Additional Information: An elegant form featuring glass taxidermist eyes, carved wood
neck and head; lead weighted keel. Scratch carved in keel is found “LC Appleton –
9015” …9015 is an old zip code for Pikesville City, Baltimore County Maryland.
Muss-Armolt was born in Tuckahoe, NY, in 1858; died in Avon, Massachusetts
February 9, 1927. He spent most of his professional life in New York City and
Tuckahoe; noted painter of sporting and gun dogs, also painted waterfowl, upland game
and other animal subjects including horses. He served as a director of the American
Kennel Club in New York City from 1906 to 1909. He is well represented in many
museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Muss-Armolt exhibited at
the National Academy of Design in New York City
The painting of a wood duck is the illustration used in the special Gamebird Series
published by Arm & Hammer, a consumer products company. Small advertising cards
depicting this duck and other beautiful gamebirds were created for the Waterfowl
Series. (This one is number 27) Church & Dwight Co. of New York launched the
campaign in the 1880s. The corporate tradition lasted nearly 90 years, these bird
trading cards originally came in Arm & Hammer baking soda boxes and later they could
be ordered by mail. At a time when market gunners were harvesting wild birds for meat
and feathers, the Church & Dwight bird cards featured the theme “Useful birds of
America” and a simple message: “For the good of all do not destroy the birds.” Each
card carried a short interesting paragraph about the natural history of the bird portrayed.
(Original condition; frame rub and minor paint loss due to frame rabbet rub at extreme left)
This outstanding pair of hollow decoys were produced by one of the most colorful and
eccentric carvers of the late 19th and 20th century, Charles Perdew. Charlie, together
with his wife and their large following of cats lived on the bank of the river in Henry,
Illinois. Married in 1902, they formed a partnership in their decoy and decorative bird
carving venture. For a period, Charlie did most of the carving and Edna…the painting.
Eventually Edna became ill, Charlie did both the carving and the painting. Charlie
started carving when he was around 14 years old. Te record for a Perdew decoy
currently is at $252,000 for a single mallard hen. This fine rigmate pair retain their
original lead keel weight, each marked “Henry…Perdew…Ill”. They both retain their
original paint. Generally excellent condition; both birds have some slight handling marks
and a few minor scuffs.
(Male: height: 8.25"; length: 15.75"; width: 5.75" Female: height: 8"; length: 15.75"; width: 5.75")
Wendall Gilley is recognized for his decorative and life size carvings, however, he
carved very, very few decoys and those he created were generally for his own personal
use. This wonderful hollow carving of a scooter, typical of Gilley’s style has beautiful
lines, but also notably the clever Gilley did what no other carver did; a removable,
repositionable head. The dowel is square so that by removing the head and turning it,
you can transform the decoy so that it is looking to the right, looking to the left or so that
its head is turned around and it looks like it’s sleeping or preening. This is likely unique
in decoy carvers. After Gilley’s death, members of the Rockefellers (who were ardent
collectors and much appreciated Gilley’s works) were instrumental in the creation of the
Gilley Museum of Carvings now in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
(Generally excellent original condition; height: 7.75"; width: 8.75"; length: 20".)
The brothers began to receive recognition for their carvings in the 1940s. By the 1950s
the brothers were working as full-time artists. In 1974 Salisbury State College (now
Salisbury University) presented the brothers with honorary doctoral degrees; Maryland
Governor Harry Hughes declared Lem Ward a living state-treasure for his contribution
to American art in 1979. President Ronald Regan issued him a commendation for his
artistic contributions, and he received a National Heritage Fellowship Award by the
National Endowment for the Arts in 1983.
This unique and large original pair retains a wonderful original surface, realistically
painted and carved with detail to the mouths and heads. The paint on head and neck
are textured, a technique which we have never seen before on a Ward Brothers carving.
The Ward Brothers were two of the most famous decoy carvers in history, simple and
enduring characters. Like their father before them, they were barbers in their hometown
of Crisfield, Maryland; they enjoyed decoy carving as a side job, originally carving
working decoys. After entering and winning carving contests, they began to create
special decorative carvings such as these and eventually became internationally
One bookend has very fine original paint, the second with some minor wear on the
textured areas of the neck. Otherwise very good to excellent. These are truly special.
This example displays the original paper label from Elmer’s workshop and was at one
time in the renowned collection of Joe French [displays French’s stamp]; one of the
pioneering old time decoy collectors who acquired his first bird in 1954. Over the years
Joe amassed one of the finest collections of decoys extant, particularly renowned for its
miniature carvings. The perch is missing tail and there is a teeny scuff on the left wing,
otherwise outstanding. The tail can be restored.
(Height: 5.25"; width: 4.75"; depth: 3.25")
This outstanding rarity, a striking decoy having glass bead eyes was carved of white
pine and unidentified hardwoods; three-piece construction, body and head joined at
mid-neck for strength. The favorite delicacy of this species is crickets-hence the highly
animated, striking position. As descended, historic surface and original bill. Ex Bob
Thayer, AAAWT, to private collection. (Length: 10”)
Haertel was a wonderful man and a superb decoy carver; his works have long been
much admired and collected. His attention to detail and form is truly outstanding as can
is illustrated by this fine pair. His brush strokes and detail are just incredible. This
particular pair are marked on the bottom “Blue-Winged Teal Made for Wm. Brauer
Collection by Harold Haertel 1972”. Brauer was a longtime, well known decoy collector.
Both decoys have a couple scattered and teeny scuffs or scratches near the head and
bill, otherwise appear to be excellent and original.
(Drake: height: 4.25"; length: 11.5"; width: 4.5"; Hen: height: 4.5"; length: 10.5"; width: 4.25")
This example is branded twice with Crowell’s mark on the underside and retains
its original extraordinary paint decoration. The perch is a masterful replacement,
exactly what should be seen.
(Height: 6.5"; width: 4.75"; length: 7.5")
A must unusual, perhaps unique hollow body constructed of sheet iron, all seams are
welded tight for buoyancy; high points beads filed. The carved pine neck is sheathed in
sheet iron; head also formed of sheet iron. The surface appears to be original paint;
cheek patch in old sloppy hunters repaint. Sold with display stand.
(Height: 15"; length: 23"; width: 10.5")
During the late 19th and early 20th century hunters shot almost every specie of
waterfowl including yellow legs for food and feathers. Hunter’s carried two or three
dozen of these small shorebirds in sacks…into the marshes early in the morning setting
them up as decoys. Carrying a heavy sack containing two or three dozen birds
was no easy task even for the strongest of men; the delicate bills were frequently
broken. Virtually all carvers created these small birds out of solid blocks of wood.
The man who created this work of folk art was rather ingenious and perhaps a little lazy.
He didn’t want to carry a large rig of heavy shorebirds, so he painstakingly hollowed out
each one, equally as interesting is the fact that the heads were removable. Thus, when
he was through using the decoy, he opened the hinged body, fitted the head within the
cavity; this facilitated his ability to easily carry dozens of these decoys out into the
marsh. This beautiful example retains its original paint and generally is in wonderful
condition. It’s possible that the beak may have been replaced at some point; looks good
under a loop, but we know for sure. While there may be more than a couple extant, we
can only recollect one other example, which sold some years ago at a decoy auction for
I believe was in excess of $10,000.00 Retains its original paint, scattered minor wear and
some flaking off the breast. Thinning original Mackey stamp can be seen on the underside.
Literature: American Bird Decoys by William F. Mackey, Jr., page 72.
The Art of the Decoy, American Bird Carvings, Adele Earnest, page 94
This shooters bird displays strong paint with some thinning; small shallow chip to top of
head and the neck filler is nearly gone; an old expert tail chip repair is hardly evident.
Scattered shot dings; structurally fine. Good condition commensurate with age and use.
(Height: 7"; length: 17"; width: 5.5")
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