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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.

Henry H. Holmes (1870-1940) Bureau, IL

Henry Holmes was a carpenter, cabinet maker and house builder. In the late 1880's, he started carving decoys in his two-story workshop situated by the railroad tracks running through Bureau. He was urged to carve commercially by the sportsmen in the Chicago area and made lures for area hunters and clubs including the Princeton Club. When it was available, Holmes preferred using Idaho white pine for his scaup, Canada goose, mallard, pintail and teal decoys. During his carving career, Holmes carved miniatures and three different sizes of working decoys, the earliest lures being the smallest. Some of his largest measure fifteen inches from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail (Loomis 259). He hollowed the wood to create a light, well-balanced decoy. Using a coping saw, Holmes roughed out the heads and finished them with a pocket knife, making the bills a little thicker than most in the area. Handmade lead keel weights bear the impression "H. Holmes" or "The Holmes Decoy" to identify the piece (Haid 154). To achieve a realistic appearance, Holmes used heavy oil paints and combined blended brushstrokes with combing techniques. His great ability to paint won him popularity among carvers and many had him paint their own decoys.
Holmes carved until his death, producing between two thousand and three thousand decoys. Unfortunately, most of the decoys have not survived.