Edward F. “One-Arm” Kelly (1883-1955) Monroe, MI
Ed Kelly was an all-around outdoorsman that enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was employed by a local factory when his right arm caught in a press and had to be amputated. After the accident, Kelly worked as the signalman for a railroad and started carving in his spare time on the job. At first, he carved only trinkets and medallions, but moved on to carving decoys. When his carving became more than a pastime, Kelly had a workshop built in his backyard, so he could spend more time developing his talent and skill.
To carve a decoy, Kelly held the wooden block in place with his stump and worked his handsaw, spokeshave and budding knife with his good arm. As is common to the Michigan style, Kelly carved bodies accented with stubby tails or with bobtails on his later works. The decoy heads are unique to his carving style and are carved in a number of positions including a rare high-head posture. His painting patterns are simple, but the manner in which he blended colors lends realism to his work. The bluebills, canvasbacks, mallards and handful of other species he produced sold for $25 to $30 per dozen (Engers 219). Gunners appreciated Kelly's compact decoys for their stability even on Lake Erie. The popularity of "One-Arm" Kelly has transcended the years as collectors find his pieces worth collecting today.