Fred A. Allen (1838-1912) Monmouth, IL
Fred Allen became one of Illinois' most notable outdoorsman and sportsman. With the heightened demand for sports accessories caused by area hunters and gunning clubs, Allen turned his attention to the production of decoys, callers, custom-made boats and other sporting goods. Allen was of the imaginative sort and invented products like the bow-facing oar. A few of his inventions were even patented, like "Allen's Nickel-Plated Duck Caller," the first mass-produced duck caller in Illinois. He also devised a "Frame for Supporting Dead Birds as Decoys" which came in three different sizes and sold for four dollars a dozen (Loomis 158). Obviously decoys were not Allen's primary pursuit. Between 1880 and the early 1900's, Allen carved scaup, mallard, redhead and teal decoys. These well-proportioned birds consist of two hollow pieces of wood. The decoys he constructed are wide and shallow with a leather gasket running about the middle seam to bar leakage. Flat bottoms lead into short broad tails at the end of short round bodies. The heads have fat cheeks and thick bills with carved nails and notches at the bill-to-head joint. Allen always recessed the yellow glass eyes in his decoys and finished the birds with carefully blended and feathered paint jobs. Few of Fred Allen's decoys have survived over the years to document his carving career and attest to his ability as a decoy carver.