Augustus "Gus" Aaron Wilson (1864-1950) South Portland, ME
Gus Wilson carved many of his decoys while working as keeper of Marshall's Point Light and several other lighthouses. He spent sixty years of his life carving (ca. 1880-1940) and became known for the quantity and variety of his output (Kangas, Survey 101). The majority of Wilson's decoys is stream-lined and solid and features flat bottoms, carved eyes and inletted necks.
Wilson departed from the typical Maine carving style by paying more attention to detail. As did other Maine carvers, Wilson often made decoys with mussels in their mouths. In addition, Wilson carved detailed bills and wings in relief. The black duck caller on display illustrates another characteristic of Wilson's technique, a rocking head. The head is made separate from the body so it will rock with the motion of the water. The other Wilson decoy on display, a red-breasted merganser drake, also sports the rocking head feature and a strip of leather through its mouth to represent seaweed. Both of these birds have the atypical detail of underbill and mouth carving. Attention to detail is further extended through the positions of Wilson's birds; some are sleeping or preening while others are spreading their wings. With each new rig of decoys, Wilson drew patterns on paper that were often dropped on the workshop floor, swept up and eventually burned. During the years that Wilson was carving, he did not limit himself to waterfowl. Baltimore orioles, blue jays, crows, tigers and even a snake made their way into Wilson's repertoire.