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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.

Ira Hudson (1876-1949) 

Ira Hudson was born in 1873 in Maryland but he grew up in Delaware. He later moved to Chincoteague, Virginia and raised his large family of nine children with his wife Eva. Hudson built his own home and started carving decoys in 1897.

Using white pine, balsa, cedar or any other wood he could procure (from driftwood or old ships masts for example), Hudson carved both hollow and solid birds that have a life-like appearance. He made all species of geese, shorebirds and ducks that sold for varied prices according to the grade of the decoy. Hudson was an innovative carver and portrayed his birds in a variety of positions. His flying ducks, hissing geese and crooked neck brant stand out among his works. He did not adhere to any particular style, carving some decoys with extensive head detailing and others without. The tails flow or jut from the bodies, and some have been fluted. Iron upholstery tacks serve as eyes, and neck shelves appear on every decoy, but in various positions. It seems Hudson did not weight his decoys unless a customer requested him to do so. Some of his paint patterns exhibit elaborate details and scratch painting techniques, though others remain quite simple.

It is estimated that Hudson carved over 60,000 decoys in his lifetime, most of which were shorebirds, Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers, along with a few other species. Along with his decoys, most of which are solid, as opposed to hollow decoys, he made quite miniatures and flying birds and fish.Hudson also spent part of his time carving and building boats. He sold his decoys for four dollars per dozen to hunters but he did not hunt.

Decoy making in the Hudson home was a family affair; all the kids helped in some capacity, usually sanding bodies or bushel baskets of decoy heads. Three of Hudson's children, Norman, Delbert and Alice, successfully designed and sold some of their own decoys. Hudson often required the help of Norman and Delbert to fill his orders. With the help of his family, Hudson produced some twenty-five thousand decoys, many of which have been lost to the abuses of hunters and the elements. Ira Hudson's career and life were ended by a fatal blood clot. His children, Norman and Delbert, carved and his grandson, Bob, continue to carve.