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909 South Schumaker Drive
Salisbury, MD 21804

Museum Hours

Mon - Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sun: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Joel Barber (1877-1952) Wilton, Connecticut  

Joel Barber is recognized among decoy collectors and historians as being among the very first persons to stimulate the study and collection of working decoys. An architect in New York City, Barber established the first recorded decoy museum, "Shanty Museum of Old Decoys" on his property in Wilton. He began collecting decoys after coming across a rig in an old sail loft in Babylon, New York. With this acquisition he began the pastime of collecting decoys or as he referred to them, "floating sculpture", Barber was one of the organizers of the 1923 Bellport Decoy Carving Show, which is credited with being the first held in the United States.

In 1934, Barber's book Wild Fowl Decoys was published. Still in print, this stylized history of working decoys and the men who carved them" legitimized" the art form of decoy carving and fueled the transition from "working decoys" to "decorative art". Armed with his considerable knowledge gleaned from his travels to visit with innumerable carvers, Barber sought to make the "perfect bird". With the assistance of a collaborator Edward H. "Ted" Mulliken, Barber produced a limited number of decoys. His decoys are known for their thick bodies and heavy keel to maintain balance in the water.


For additional information

Connecticut Decoys - Carvers and Gunners, 1987 by Henry Chitwood, et al Decoy Collector's Guide, vol. 6, 1977

Decoy Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1994

Decoy Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1999

Decoys - A North American Survey, 1983 by Gene and Lindy Kangas Wild Fowl Decoys, 1934 by Joel Barber