TI Museum Decoy Displays – general information:
The fish and wildlife of the St. Lawrence River have always been vital resources. The earliest explores and settlers were dependent on them for food, and the commercial value of the furs and meat were an important stimulus to settlement efforts. Even through most of the twentieth century, fish and wildlife remained important components of the diet of many of the River families, especially during the long winter months when employment opportunities and cash reserves were lower. As settlement of the area progressed, the food and commercial value began to be replaced by their value as part of the tourism industry. Tourists came to the area for the abundance of fish and game, as well as the scenery, and local businesses sprang up to accommodate them. Hotels and boarding houses were established, and area craftsmen began building the boats and other gear that they needed. This included the carving of decoys to be used in the pursuit of waterfowl.
Decoys are now recognized as a form of folk art unique to North America. The first decoys were made by the native Americans using grass, mud, natural pigments, feathers, and the skins of birds. These decoys were strategically placed along shore or floated on the water, near hides or blinds, in order to bring the birds closer. Made of natural materials, these decoys tended to be very short-lived, although a cache of decoys was found in a cave in Nevada in 1924, that were preserved by the dry climate, and later carbon dated to 1000 A.D.. Archeological investigations on other continents show that wildfowl were important food resources for many cultures, but only in North American were decoys used in hunting them.
The European settlers were quick to adopt the hunting methods of the native Americans, including the use of decoys. However, with their knowledge of wood working and the availability of iron and steel tools, they soon began carving more durable hunting decoys. By the late 1700s, American settlers were using carved and painted wooden decoys in a number of locations. Demand for waterfowl rose dramatically after mid 1800s due to increasing population. Improvements in transportation improved access to both the waterfowl and the markets. The commercial sale of waterfowl was outlawed in 1918, but recreational hunting continued to grow, increasing the demand for decoys. Local craftsman were quick to fill the need for decoys, and like boats, regional styles soon developed to better meet the needs and conditions of each area.
Display cases exhibiting an important collection of decoys by Sam Denny, Clayton, NY. Sam Denny carved hunting decoys for over 50 years, beginning in 1900, carving approximately 5,000 decoys in his lifetime. These cases show several different sizes and style of broadbill decoys, and decoys for goldeneyes, canvasbacks, buffleheads, and black ducks. The bufflehead decoys are especially rare, and the goldeneye decoys include the only known example of a drake painted in the immature plumage pattern. [img src=http://www.timuseum.org/wp-content/flagallery/decoy/thumbs/thumbs_denny-cases.jpg]
Photo 1: Hunting decoys from a number of St. Lawrence River carvers including Frank Louis, ‘Spud’ Norman, Ed Sweet, Clovis LeFebvre, Chancy Patterson, Frank Coombs, Bob Burke, Rosh Douglas, and James Stanley. In the bottom left section is a Herter’s Factory decoy with a cork body covered with printed and colored canvass.
Photo 2: Display cases exhibiting an important collection of decoys by Sam Denny, Clayton, NY. Sam Denny carved hunting decoys for over 50 years, beginning in 1900, carving approximately 5,000 decoys in his lifetime. These cases show several different sizes and style of broadbill decoys, and decoys for goldeneyes, canvasbacks, buffleheads, and black ducks. The bufflehead decoys are especially rare, and the goldeneye decoys include the only known example of a drake painted in the immature plumage pattern.
Photo 3: A display of hunting decoys by Ken Harris and Don Wolfe. On the bottom right section is a group of bodies and heads for a planned rig of brant by Wolfe; started but never finished. On top of the case is a contemporary Canada goose decoy by Mike Wavercak.
Photo 4: A mockup of a decoy carver’s workshop showing some of the tools, and head and body pieces in various stages. The bench, vice, and chair are from the workshop of Rosh Douglas, a noted carver from Ogdensburg, NY.
Photo 5: More decoys by Sam Denny, an example patterned after Sam Denny, and a Denny decoy pattern used to trace an outline on a block of wood prior to cutting out the decoy body.