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Early Golden Plover
A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952)
East Harwich, MA, c. 1910
10 1/2 in. long
Born in East Harwich, Massachusetts, Elmer Crowell possessed an early fascination with ornithology and hunting. These passions led to a career as a market gunner in the late 1800s. In 1898 Dr. John C. Phillips, Jr. (1876-1938), a sportsman who was also a prominent member of Boston society and a prolific author, asked Crowell to manage his Wenham Lake hunting camp. Upon seeing Crowell’s masterful carvings, Phillips and the camp’s affluent guests persuaded Crowell to make decoys for them. The resulting decoys from this early period are some of the most desirable bird carvings ever made.
Widely credited with being the father of American bird carving, Elmer Crowell’s influence on all future carvers cannot be overstated and his meticulous workmanship and exquisite painting have never been surpassed.
This early Crowell model shows "dust jacket" style wing carving and elaborate paint. The efforts required to make this type of decoy were time consuming and Crowell had pretty much abandoned the model altogether by 1920. This rare example stands out as one of the only golden plover decoys with this wing treatment known to exist. The underside retains the “NELSON” collection stamp. Original paint with even gunning wear, very minor one-third-inch restoration to wing tip, slightly lifted grain line by stick hole, and very minor spot of touch-up to original bill.
Provenance: Grant Nelson Collection
Literature: William J. Mackey, Jr., "American Bird Decoys," New York, NY, 1965, p. 64, pl. III, and dust jacket, related decoys illustrated.
John and Shirley Delph, "New England Decoys," Exton, PA, 1990, dust jacket, related decoys illustrated.
Jeff Waingrow, "American Waterfowl Decoys," New York, NY, 1985, pp. 90-91 and back cover, related decoy illustrated.
Stephen B. O'Brien, Jr. and Chelsie W. Olney, "Elmer Crowell: Father of American Bird Carving," Hingham, MA, 2019.
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