Charles Edward "Shang" Wheeler (1872-1949) Stratford, CT
Shang Wheeler carved for pleasure and gave away many of his decoys to friends. No doubt he could have made quite a bit of money, because during his active carving years, Wheeler studied, hunted and carved at least one of every bird known to inhabit the east coast stretching from Maine to Florida. He carved in the Stratford style, though contrary to normal, some of his decoys do have relief-carved wings. Wheeler further set himself apart from carvers in general and the Stratford carvers by being one of the first carvers to produce both shooting stool and exhibition birds. Wheeler carved three grades of decoys portraying numerous head positions. One grade features cork bodies with flat bottoms, another has a fuller body of cork and balsa and the decorative grade is usually wood only. The cork decoys worked best on calm waters and required a heavier weight than the wooden ones to insure life-like floating characteristics. These decoys were often given inset wooden heads and tails. When Wheeler carved a wooden decoy, he tended towards pine, dividing the wood in equal sizes so the seam would ride above the water line. The birds carved for exhibition purposes have thinner necks, longer tails and a greater variety of head positions. Wheeler employed only handtools in his carving process until he was given a power saw and a drill press as gifts in the late 1930's. In addition to being a superior carver, Wheeler was also an exquisite painter. He combined careful layering of paints and subtle gradations of color to attain a natural look.