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909 South Schumaker Drive
Salisbury, MD 21804
410.742.4988

Museum Hours

Mon - Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sun: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Benjamin Holmes (1843-1912) Stratford, CT  

Benjamin Holmes benefitted sportsmen by carving duck decoys, though he himself never hunted. He learned his trade from Albert Laing and developed great carving and painting skills. Holmes catered to the needs of the local hunters, so he mainly carved black duck, goldeneye, scaup and whistler decoys. Upon special request from southern duck hunters, Holmes carved canvasbacks and redheads.

Holmes preferred white pine for his decoys and hollowed out two pieces of unequal sizes. The upper piece is larger than the lower and causes the seam to ride under the water line. Narrow teardrop shaped weights were secured with a single screw to an attached a flat bottom board. Holmes' decoys are simple with rounded angles and lots of curves. A typical Holmes decoy features a rounded chest, a smooth surface and a slightly upturned flat tail; only his black duck and whistler decoys have pointed tails. High backs on Holmes' later decoys dip into an exaggerated v-groove that gives the look of shoulders. Stout necks support rounded heads with painted or glass eyes. Holmes usually tipped the bills with a carved nail, squared the ends of the nostrils and created the illusion of a smiling decoy by separating the mandibles. Many of his decoys were still in use in the sixties, though most of his decoys look similar, because their heads are all pointing straight ahead. However, this stylistic sacrifice did not bar him from winning a first place prize in the International Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.