High-Head Pintail Hen Herman R. Trinosky (1874-1956) Rig Kankakee Marsh, IN, c. 1895 17 in. long, 9 1/2 in. tall
"In the early 1800s, the Grand Kankakee Marsh was recognized as the largest fresh water wetland in the Midwest, extending for approximately a million acres mostly through northwest Indiana (600,000 acres) and partially into Eastern Illinois. The fertile, ancient marshland provided a welcomed safe haven for migrating waterfowl. It was once a winding, thriving wetland providing lush habitats for a diverse menagerie of creatures from insects to fish, birds, and buffalo. Ducks that migrated through that area more recently are descendants of millions of transient waterfowl which once frequented the Grand Marsh. “Some prominent notables who regularly visited Kankakee Marsh were Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and Civil War General Lew Wallace (author of Ben Hur – 1880). In fact, the original name of the Valley Hunt Club was changed to the White House Hunt Club because of the frequent presidential visits by Grover Cleveland." -Gene and Linda Kangas with Ron Gard
Throughout history, decoy carvers often amended or altogether discarded their early patterns in favor of sturdier utilitarian designs. A perfect example of this evolution is Henry Keyes Chadwick (1865-1958) of Martha’s Vineyard whose earliest redheads started out with stylish thin necks, long bodies, and thin sharp paddle tails. Later he modified his designs to have shorter bodies and thicker necks, thus acknowledging the utility flaws of his first carving period. With limited output and easily broken heads and tails, few of these intact redheads exist today. These early “flawed” designs, however, are the ones most coveted by collectors today. While no examples of middle period or late period Kankakee pintails are known to exist, more conventional and less fragile examples of mallards and bluebills from the rig attest to the maker’s more practical side.
Since their introduction to the marketplace in 2007, the seven Kankakee pintails have been regarded as one of the most important decoy discoveries of the century. Defined by its elegant, singular form, this decoy showcases long and sweeping lines. The bird’s refined head features subtle cheek carving and a stylish bill that flares toward the tip. The graceful neck is fully extended, accurate for the species, but essentially unseen in other surviving decoys. The body exhibits a smooth humped back that tapers to a long and thin uplifted tail. The bird’s current condition is remarkable given the three areas, bill, neck, and tail, that were most prone to damage while being hunted and transported. The body’s surface retains strong swirled paint with appealing craquelure. Original paint, two tight age lines in neck and one in body, minor flaking, and gunning wear.
Provenance: Herman R. Trinosky Rig Ronald Gard Collection Private Collection
Literature: Gene and Linda Kangas with Ron Gard, "Kankakee Marsh Pintails: The Magnificent Seven," from "Hunting and Fishing Collectibles Magazine," Lawsonville, NC, July-August 2009, pp. 16-26, exact decoy illustrated four times. Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America," New York, NY, 2010, p. 39, exact decoy illustrated. Christie's, "Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Prints and Decoys," New York, NY, January 18-19, 2007, lot 365, exact decoy illustrated. Gene and Linda Kangas, "Great Lakes Interpretations," Concord, OH, 2011, front cover, rigmates illustrated, p. 182, rigmates and exact decoy (image reversed) illustrated.
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