Samuel Joseph Denny (1874-1953) Alexandria Bay, NY
Sam Denny was a fisherman, fly tier, guide and father of fifteen (Engers 94). He painted boats and houses, cut ice and wood, taught himself how to play the violin and then played for local dances. Around 1900, Denny began carving commercially using cedar for his decoys as most upstate New York carvers did. Deep eye grooves and flat bottoms appear on all of his stools. Early products are deep-chested with upturned tails and a filled¬in hole on the bottom attesting to the vise Denny used to secure the block while carving. The feather patterns are reminiscent of the Prince Edward County style. Later birds are longer and sleeker, often in a low-head position and have two holes drilled through the bottom instead of one. Denny created a very flat surface by combining blending, combing and scratching techniques. He repainted his own birds when necessary, but refused to repaint others'. To achieve a finish that would withstand years of use, Denny experimented with banana oil and collodion and melted beeswax in turpentine to prevent ice buildup. Sam Denny carved for over fifty years, making decoys that long outlasted him.