James T. Holly (1855-1935) Havre de Grace, Maryland
James "Jim", the youngest of John ‘Daddy’ Holly’s three sons, was born and raised in in Havre de Grace, Harford County, Maryland. Although he made decoys, he is best known as a builder of bushwack or sneak boats, a distinct style of boat used on the Susquehanna Flats and adjacent rivers. The boat was designed and built primarily for gunning. They varied in length from 16 to 20 feet and were 20 inches deep. The length and depth were a requirement of the state of Maryland for use in gunning.
Jim Holly’s decoys did not follow the lines of his father’s; Jim’s decoys had a longer body, more upsweep in the tails, rounder in the back and thinner heads.
Quite a number of his blackheads are still found in this area. Identifying features of the redhead (and blackhead) decoys: Both species have the same body formation; consequently, they were often repainted according to the prevalence of one species or another. The bodies are slightly longer than ‘Daddy’ Holly’s decoys and the side of the body is relatively straight for five to six inches. The chine line is approximately 1 1/2 inches below the top of the body. There is no slope where the head connects to the body and a slight upsweep on the top of the tails. The heads are flat or slightly rounded on the sides and have no nostril or mandible carving.
Body length: 12 1/4 to 12 1/2 inches
Body width: 5 3/4 to 6 inches
Body thickness: 3 3/4 inches
Head height: 3 1/2 inches
Head thickness: 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 inches1
Jim, a boat builder and craftsman by trade, made the most seaworthy, yet trim bushwack boat on the Flats. His boats were said to be unequaled in the water. But he is known today for his classy, sleek black duck decoys. They are long and slender, beautifully painted if found in original paint and a delight to the collector who owns one. He was an early innovator of the scratch painted black duck and possibly the first on the Chesapeake Bay. He also made canvasback, redhead, blackhead, and mallards. The teal that have often been attributed, in the past, to a Ben Holly were made by Jim Holly.
Fleckenstein, H.A., Jr. ( 1979). Decoys of the mid-Atlantic region. Exton, PA: Schiffer Publishing Limited.
Mackey, W.J., Jr. (1965). American bird decoys. New York, NY: Elsevier-Dutton Publishing Company, Inc.