Captain Charles C. Osgood (1820-1886)
Salem, MA, c. 1849
24 1/2 in. long
“...saw many Flocks of Ducks + Coots and 1 flock of geese. The Geese lit in the river. Never leaveDecoy out in the river over night, for fear [sic] being carried away by drift stuff. A strong argument this evening on the whole question—decision in the affirmative.”
- Henry Perkins Ives and Charles C. Osgood, gunning journal entry, Oct. 6, 1861
“The well-known provenance document accompanying the Shelburne Museum’s rigmate Osgood geese relates that Charles C. Osgood, a ship’s captain from Salem, sailed for California in 1849, and while waiting to return with his cargo, made these decoys. Upon reaching home, he took them to a friend’s hunting lodge in nearby Rowley, where they remained until discovered a hundred years later. Rowley, fifteen miles north of Salem, is on the west side of Plum Island Sound.
The lodge, the Ives Camp, was built in 1853 by its co-owners, Charles Osgood and Henry Perkins Ives. It was on the north bank of the Rowley River, an ideal location, giving hunters access to an enormous salt marsh snaked by a tangle of tidal creeks and rivers.
For many years there have been rumors of a camp log—and there is one in the Plover House Company records at the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum. It comes in two versions. The smaller notebook covers 1853-1873. The larger one, a photostat with added entries, spans 1853 to 1897, documenting a total of forty years of shooting. The journal’s front page is blank but for the signatures of Osgood and Ives. The “company” consisted of about ten other local gunners. Visitors to the club included the North Shore decoy royalty of Captain Samuel A. Fabens (1814-1899) and Fred Nichols (1854-1924), and the artist John Prentiss Benson (1865-1947), the brother of Frank W. Benson (1862-1951).
Although both Charles Osgood and his older brother Henry (1818-1892), were born in Baltimore, their parents, Henry and Lydia Bryant Osgood, had deep roots in the bustling seaport of Salem, Massachusetts. When the boys were still small, their father moved the family back north to his hometown. Charles graduated from high school in 1835, and at age fifteen, like many of his classmates, went to sea. When he had attained the rank of captain, he was hired by Colonel Francis Peabody, owner of a fleet of Salem ships.
Peabody, from an extremely wealthy family, had declined college to pursue his passions for chemistry, mechanical engineering and invention. He was clearly talented at all three, experimenting in turn with lead, book papers, linseed and whale oils, steam locomotion and flax. He also designed his Gothic Revival mansion, crafted furniture for the place and, in addition made musical instruments.
Colonel Peabody’s fleet served two purposes. First, it brought him natural resources from overseas, then it delivered the resulting products he created to his European clientele. Osgood served as one of his masters for twenty-five years, voyaging to Calcutta, Bombay and Canton among many other ports.”
- Special thanks to "The Museum of American Bird Art", Mass Audubon, and Massachusetts Masterpieces curator and author Gwladys (Gigi) Hopkins for providing this biographical content.
Of the six geese from the Captain Osgood rig known to exist, this represents the only example that remains in private hands. The five other examples from this important rig all reside in the collection of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The group was given to the Shelburne Museum in 1953 by Mrs. P. H. B. Frelinghuysen, an early visionary and supporter of the museum.
A rigmate to the Shelburne geese, this hollow decoy features a skyward-looking, uplifted head that is slightly turned to the left. The body is of three-piece construction. The fully rounded cheeks were achieved by the patient maker who added additional laminated pieces to each side of the head. Similar to the famous Massachusetts dove-tailed geese, this decoy has a removable head for ease of transport to and from the field. Each side of the neck joint is fitted with a metal hinge and a removable hinge-pin neatly secures the head to the body. This inventive decoy construction is exceptionally rare, if not unique. Both sides of the joint are marked with the matching Roman numeral “II.”
This lot represents a singular opportunity to own a decoy from one of the most iconic decoy rigs to have ever surfaced. Professionally restored, including replaced bottom board.
Provenance: Ronald Swanson Collection
Literature: Loy S. Harrell, Jr., "Decoys: North America’s One Hundred Greatest," Iola, WI, 2000, pp. 150-151, rigmate illustrated.
Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America", New York, NY, 2010, p. 167, rigmates illustrated.
Gwladys Hopkins, "Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy As Art", Lincoln, MA, 2016, pp. 76-77 and p. 2, rigmates illustrated.
Kory Rogers, "Birds of a Feather: Wildfowl Decoys at the Shelburne Museum", Shelburne, VT, 2017, pp. 143-145, rigmates illustrated.
Gene and Linda Kangas, “Great Decoys From Great Rigs,” Decoy Magazine, Lewes, DE, Nov/Dec, 2009, pp. 24-25, rigmates illustrated.
Condition report requests can be made via email or by telephone (firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.536.0030). Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.