George "Factory" Peterson (1873 - 1884) Detroit, Michigan
George Peterson was one of the earliest commercial manufacturers of waterfowl decoys in the United States. A machinist, carpenter and chair-maker, he established a home- based business in 1873. He sold his business in 1884 to Jasper Dodge.
The extent of Peterson's production is not well known. He printed no catalogues or descriptions of the models he offered for sale. It may be that he produced "customized" decoys made to customer specifications. A few decoys have been identified stamped on the bottom "Geo. Peterson". In the last two years of business, Peterson was joined by Frank W. Lambert, a painter by trade whose painting style added both "beauty and charm" to the well-turned decoys which are credited to Peterson.
In 1884, Dodge acquired Peterson's business and advertised that he was the "successor" to Peterson. Dodge remained in business for 28 years and his production was clearly greater than Peterson. Initially, Dodge may have used Peterson's patterns to turn out duck, goose, swan and shorebird decoys. However, it is felt that within a few years he was producing his own style of decoys.
Distinguishing between decoys made by Peterson and Dodge remains a matter of continuing discussion among veteran collectors. Some have voiced the opinion that "Peterson evolved into Dodge". Perhaps that is the best starting point in making a distinction between the works of these two pioneer decoy manufacturers.
For additional information
American Factory Decoys, 1981 by Henry A. Fleckenstein, Jr.
Decoy Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1990.
Factory Decoys of Stevens, Mason and Peterson, 1980 by John & Shirley Delph.
North American Decoys, Spring 1976.